When I first heard about Talkster back in October, I was intrigued. I participated marginally in their alpha program and thought their service “cool”. But at the time, it seemed to be raining mobile VOIP services like cats and dogs. Wasn’t Talkster just another “me-too” service? Today, with the launch of their new beta program, I had a chance to chat with CEO James Wanless, who set me straight on what Talkster is really all about. So, if you are an IT lead, manager or director of information systems in your company, or if you want to control the mobile devices your employees use, then you need to know about Talkster.
First, about the beta program. The beta is really designed to serve users a small slice of the potential of the Talkster network. It showcases two main pieces of functionality. 1) enable moble phones to call instant messenger with voice services such as MSN, Gizmo Project, and Google Talk. 2) enables long distance calling at substantially reduced long distance and roaming rates.
Talkster services operates on any regular mobile phone that has a web browser. The beta takes minutes to set up and you don’t have to install software on your phone or computer. Basically, you create an online account with the names and email addresses/numbers of your MSN, Gizmo Project and Google Talk buddies. Next, you use the browser on you mobile phone to log in to your Talkster account. You’ll see your contact list with a presence icon beside each name indicating if they are online or not. Select a name and you make a voice over IM (VoIM) call to that person free of charge. Alec Saunders did a nice demo on his Blackberry a while back with some good screen shots. Tom Keating in today’s post also has some good observations.
But while the consumer side of the Talkster network is ready now, the goal is comprensive and consolidated control over mobile communications services and devices for the enterprise. In fact, Talkster styles itself as a business mobility company. They’re not in the race for the cheapest phone call, what James Wanless calls the “race to zero”. “That’s not a great business model”, he says. “Talkster provides a contact centric service for mobile business users. Phone numbers, IM addresses, even SIP URls are all consolidated into one interface. Users just have to choose by name and not worry about how the call is placed. But on the enterprise level, companies can manage people on their cell phones out in the field and bring cell phone usage in line with company policy.” In the business version of the product to be released this spring, Wanless says Talkster will provide these essential tools so that the enterprise can manage their mobile users.
The Talkster beta service is open to users worldwide at www.talkster.com. Enterprises interested in the forthcoming enterprise service can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.