Opinion by Mark Hall
SEPTEMBER 12, 2005 (COMPUTERWORLD) - ... as open-source private branch exchange software with integrated voice-over-IP capabilities gains adherents. "I believe they already know they're doomed," suggests Brian Capouch, chairman of the computer science department at Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind.
Capouch argues that giant telecommunications providers and PBX manufacturing goliaths don't stand a chance against perky start-ups such as Huntsville, Ala.-based Digium Inc. and San Diego-based Four Loop Technologies LLC, which does business under the name Switchvox. Those vendors use Asterisk, an open-source technology that lets companies replace their PBX systems and use VoIP to transmit phone calls. Switchvox CEO Joshua Stephens says Asterisk lets you use a standard Linux server to connect to your network via a T1 line for traditional analog calls or to your Internet service provider to support chat via VoIP. Switchvox's system also handles voice mail like e-mail, meaning you can listen to it, forward it, store it and do anything to voice messages that you can do to e-mail, claims Stephens. Switchvox 2.0 ships at the end of this month and will add conference-room, intercom, call-parking and other new features. Pricing starts at $995.
Capouch says Asterisk and VoIP combined will do to the telecom market what Linux, Apache, MySQL and other open-source technologies have done to the data center: "radically change the landscape." Capouch shrugs off the argument that perceived problems with VoIP call quality may hinder adoption. "Cell phones have lowered people's quality expectations," he notes.
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