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New phone company, made in Silicon Valley


Start-up phone provider Ribbit aims to offer solutions to questions like: “Why can’t I forward voice messages like I can my email?” or “Why doesn’t my phone ring in my browser?” Ribbit, which is still in beta testing phase and set to launch in the coming months, is headed up by Silicon Valley tech veterans who plan to load their phone service with applications previously unavailable from a single phone network. Instead of simply displaying a caller ID, for example, Ribbit will create a mashup of relevant information culled from social networks like Twitter and Facebook, revealing what the caller is currently doing/reading/watching. What Ribbit is attempting, via its development platform Amphibian—is to combine all of the different ‘talk channels’ that consumers are using, and to overlay this unified communication hub with web-enabled features such as voicemail sorting tools and info-rich caller ID. Call routing is good example of their integrated approach. As explained by Ribbit: “Drag and drop personal call routing lets you connect all your phones together. It’s your call—you determine where you want to take it. Route calls to Skype, MSN, Google Talk, home, office, or anywhere you want. Ring all, none, or some…answer one and they all stop ringing. And you can even move a live call from one phone to another.” Additional applications will come from independent developers using Amphibian’s API. These developers—more than 600 have signed on so far—can sell the tools they create via Ribbit’s online store. That’s where the opportunity for tech-savvy entrepreneurs may lie. Ribbit itself will create revenue through access fees to its API, along with support services and sales of applications developed both in-house and by third parties. Ribbit isn’t alone in this space, of course. Heavyweight Google recently announced its open model Android operating system for mobile phones. Another major player, eBay, is under pressure to wring more profits from its Skype subsidiary. And Apple has plans to further open up its iPhone to third party developers. Bottom line: the telecom industry is about to get even more lively, with lots of opportunities for small-scale developers to create their own profitable niches that serve consumers like never before. Spotted by: Mark Ingebretsen



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