Becoming the latest Net-based threat to telcos' dominance of phone conversations, NetSpeak today delivered the first release of its WebPhone Net telephone software for Windows.
Available from the company's Web site and various Net access providers, the software lets users call other WebPhone users over the Internet instead of telephone lines, thus saving long distance charges since the user pays only for the connection to a local Internet server. WebPhone provides four lines so that a user could put one call on hold if another WebPhone call comes in while they are logged on. If the user doesn't want to answer, the caller can be routed into WebPhone voice mail.
NetSpeak officials say WebPhone is also more reliable than many of its competitors because it uses point-to-point voice communications that simply link two IP addresses instead of using a technology called Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which requires the use of an intermediary server. With IRC, used by many existing Net telephony products, the server can crash and cut off phone conversations, whereas point-to-point connections only be broken only if one of the two linked desktops crash.
The full-featured four-line WebPhone is available for $49.95. Users can also download a free version with only one line. WebPhone 1.0 runs on Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows NT, or OS/2. A Macintosh version is to ship in three to six months, followed by a Unix version, according to the company.