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Under the Radar: Making the phone more Web 2.0

The telephone is useful, but how can we improve it? These three companies think they've found a way.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read

The Under the Radar conference kicked off this morning with one of my favorite panels: three video and voice companies that are trying to take services we're already using and make them better.

First up was Eyejot, which we've covered several times. The core service revolves around video e-mail, although it has recently moved into other areas like Eyejot This, which lets you annotate Web pages with video clips from your Webcam (and even share them via Twitter). There's also a platform that lets site owners add video notes and mail to their service.

There are two levels of service, one free with limited storage and time-expired messages, and premium plans that add additional storage and archiving. Eyejot's CEO David Gellar says the company has enjoyed a "double digit uptake" of users who upgrade to the pro.

Gellar also noted that a mobile client for the service is not in works (at the moment). Gellar calls the mobile field a "moving target" because of hardware and network differentiations between the U.S. carriers.

Ribbit, a telephony platform that's meant to be integrated into Web applications, showed off its wares. Its application for Salesforce.com is launching next month and will cost $25/mo per user. VP of Technology Crick Waters demonstrated the upcoming interface and noted that more than 53,000 calls have been made on developer network. The coolest feature is a familiar looking telephone keypad that can be integrated into Web apps and services.

Ribbit's consumer application called Amphibian, which blends your Web presence with your mobile phone, is launching in the next few months. We profiled it back when it was announced at DemoFALL.

Ribbit's Salesforce.com app will let you call your contacts right from Salesforce. It's launching next month. (Click to enlarge.) CNET Networks

Vello, "the conference that calls you," solves a wonderfully irritating problem with conference-calling services. Instead of having people deal with special call in numbers and PIN codes, it only requires meeting creators to plug in phone numbers (from Outlook or your Web contact list) and the service will create the conference call and phone all the members. It also has a single number people need to call (1-888-Vello) that will connect you to the right conference based on your phone number.

Mark Dzwonczyk, president and COO of Vello, showed off the service live by calling nearly everyone in the room who had given their numbers up at the cocktail party the night before. The one rub is that minutes on Vello cost nearly three times the price of normal conference calls for the host. Dzwonczyk says that the company will adjust to market prices, but for now are going for large businesses that are going for simplicity.

Be sure to keep an eye on Webware throughout the day. We'll have continuing conference coverage as the day progresses.

Update: Fixed Vello's URL and and info on Eyejot's mobile efforts. For more see the comments. (thanks David)