PhoneGnome Your Way

Televolution’s PhoneGnome has come a long way since it was introduced nearly two years ago.

Now company founder David Beckmeyer is aiming to be the “eBay for voice applications” by opening the platform to developers through Web Services APIs and distribution through the PhoneGnome website. Think of it as a voice application bazaar.

“People keep saying they want to build these Web 2.0 applications,” says Beckmeyer. “Now they have the platform. Developers can get feedback from hundreds of customers. We have an iterative development process and a platform that makes it easy to do. With a modest investment, you can get real world feedback.”

Beckmeyer knows what he’s talking about. Back in the early 1990s he co-founded Earthlink and he’s looking to reproduce that model.

“Who would have thought of most of the cool things [Internet applications] in 1992,” he says. “It didn’t take too many resources to make a new Internet application.”

The PhoneGnome bazaar lets users select services they want — for example, a PhoneGnome plug-in for Skype or IOTUM’s relevance call screening — and activate them directly from the PhoneGnome site. Some services are free, others have a fee. But you can pay for them all through the PhoneGnome site.

Another area of focus for Beckmeyer is taking PhoneGnome mobile, delivering a unified communications experience to mobile devices from the PhoneGnome platform. A downloadable Java client synchs up a smartphone with your PhoneGnome account and downloads your phonebook to the phone.

“It will be taking a prominent position in the PhoneGnome messaging and website, where PhoneGnome for the mobile phone becomes the focus prospectively,” says Beckmeyer, “including pure mobile and fixed/mobile convergence applications and solutions.”

Using PhoneGnome’s mobile incarnation, you simply make calls from your cell phone and they appear to be coming from your home or office phone. Likewise, inbound calls can ring through to the mobile phone transparently. The service will also work with a “dumb” mobile phone, but it’s a two-stage process.

The ultimate, however, are the dual mode phones coming on the market, like the Nokia N95. “Those will offer full VoIP capability,” says Beckmeyer. He’s also promoting mobile PhoneGnome as a minute-saving solution for people who’ve decided to completely cut the phone company cord and use mobile phones as their home phones.

“The platform is key,” says Beckmeyer. “I’m not smart enough to think of all those applications.” I think he underestimates himself.

You can try out a preliminary versions of mobile PhoneGnome here.

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  • PhoneGnome

    Nice post, Carolyn. Thanks much.

    I would like to clarify one thing. When I am quoted saying “Developers can get feedback from hundreds of customers” it sort of sounds like the *maximum* number of customers a developer can get feedback from is a few hundred, and that certainly isn’t the case. The idea is, with PhoneGnome, one can go from idea to real customers very qucikly and with little or no up-front cost.

    In other words, the PhoneGnome “bazaar” (I like that) is a really a “Pay as you Grow” option where it’s actually feasible (economically and otherwise) to consider market tests of small numbers of customers, and iteratively improve the product before spending a lot of money on a bad idea.

    David Beckemeyer