Peerio’s Big Push to Replace the PBX

Popular Telephony, the company behind the peer-to-peer network commmunications approach, announces a number of successive deals that aims to put the scalable low-cost PBX-like middleware on intelligent hardware devices around the world.

If it were up to Popular Telephony, the traditional public branch exchange (PBX) would be long gone.

The creator of Peerio — a hardware-based peer-to-peer communications middleware solution — aims to replace the conventional centralized PBX with a server-less and switch-less system that utilizes PCs and other “intelligent endpoints” interconnected via standard IP networks.

The New York-based startup eliminates centralized servers by embedding PBX functionalities within devices like VoIP hardware-based phones. Peerio-based devices support advanced PBX features like automatic call distribution and unified messaging. Peerio applications are configured using a Web-based interface and shared over existing LANs.

“Conventional PBX technology is complex,” says Popular Telephony CEO and founder Dmitri Goroshevsky. “Making it work is complicated. Our goal is to make it simple.”

The basic tool for Popular Telephony`s approach is a familiar one — the general purpose PC.

“Ten years ago you had specialized, proprietary processors for different services — voice, video, data,” explains Goroshevsky. “Today we run these on the same commodity processor. In the same way, we can use a general purpose engine to deliver unified telephony applications – VoIP, teleconferencing.”

The benefits for businesses using the Peerio approach are two-fold, Goroshevsky claims: “Virtually unlimited scalability” and cost savings he pegs at up to 90 percent over a conventional PBX.

“You don't have anything to maintain or upgrade,” Goroshevsky says. “There are no space requirements. You don't need a special staff.”

This week the company announced a number of new partnerships designed to significantly expand its reach in the world of enterprise telephone solutions.

An agreement with Puerto Rico-based start-up Commoca, enables the integration of Peerio software into Commoca's high-end color touch-screen IP terminal, the CIPP 1310, for enterprise PBX implementations. The device now sells through OEMs via private licensing agreements and through resellers and carries a wholesale cost of about $400.

Commoca's platform, developed using Texas Instruments' VoIP technology, allows the creation of unique services that go beyond the typical voice functions of the telephone. “Most OEMs won't let you touch the software,” explains Commoca President Jose Melendez. “We're just the opposite.”

Commoca, supplies a platform that its customers can access to create unique services. The company's website features several industry-specific examples like phones designed for the hospitality and gaming industries.

The Commoca platform also features integrated contextual search and local directory capability. “No one else provides a full end-to-end solution — whether peer-to-peer or IP PBX — that delivers contextual search and yellow pages,” Melendez says.

Other Popular Telephony announcements made this week indicate that the company is entering Asia in a big way.

First, a licensing agreement with a major Chinese supplier of network components and terminals, GRANDi, allows that company to manufacture low-cost — under $50 — Peerio-enabled phones.

Asia is important to the company's strategy, says Goroshevsky, both because of the huge potential market and “because Asia supplies the mass market devices that are necessary to commoditize the market.”

Ejoin Technology, the second Peerio Chinese licensee, will build Peerio-enabled gateways to deliver the essential connectivity between IP telephones and the PSTN.

Finally, China-based Ewoophone will be the first Asian VoIP service provider to offer PC-to-PC and PC-to-phone VoIP service using Peerio technology.

The Peerio engine theoretically can deliver any enterprise service, which Goroshevsky acknowledges, saying that the company plans to roll out new applications aggressively during the coming year.

“Peerio is not about VoIP,” he says. “It's about a new way, a complete shift for network communications.”