VocalTec plans to bridge conventional telephones to Net

VocalTec has unveiled its strategy to bridge traditional telephony and Internet telephony, allowing users to place calls over the Internet to standard phones or PCs running VocalTec's Internet Phone software.

VocalTec has unveiled its strategy to bridge traditional telephony and Internet telephony, allowing users to place calls over the Internet to standard phones or PCs running VocalTec's Internet Phone software.

The strategy, outlined by VocalTec chairman and CEO Elon Ganor at a news conference at the Mecklermedia Web Interactive trade show, is designed to develop the business market for Internet telephony through added functionality and enhanced quality. Along with placing calls via the Internet, users can place calls from within World Wide Web pages to other PCs or to standard phones.

"What it will do is take it to the next level, bridging to the legacy systems," Ganor says. Asked why such a product was needed, he says: "Because my mother does not use the computer."

As a first step, VocalTec has released two new products. The VocalTec Internet Phone Telephony Gateway Server allows companies to connect one or more Gateway servers to their computer networks, telephone network or business phone system and establish an Internet connection. The second product, Internet Phone software for Microsoft and Netscape Web browsers, allows users to point-and-click to make a call within a Web page. It includes Internet Phone for ActiveX and Internet Phone Plug-in for Netscape Navigator.

Possible applications for the VocalTec products include:

* Business people can call from the road into telephone extensions and check voice mail with a local call to the Internet or dialing a local Telephony Gateway Server;

* PC users can get technical support and get help installing new hardware or software from a vendor's Web page without added cost to the vendor or user.

Gary Schultz, principal analyst at the Multimedia Research Group in Sunnyvale, California, takes a cautious view of Vocaltec's announcement. "It's a little early to assume that the Internet technology will work," he says. "There are still a lot of problems with the infrastructure. And to say that their technology will solve it is premature." But, he says, the main interest will come from international telephony, where government still owns the service.

The cost for an integrated single line Gateway starts at US$3995, and can be ordered from Vocaltec or the CTI Authority, with shipment in September.

Ganor cites IDC's prediction that Internet telephony would grow to a US$2.5 billion industry by 1999, compared to an overall telecom industry of around US$500 billion. But, Ganor says, Internet telephony will not take the place of regular telephony overnight.

VocalTec is at http://www.vocaltec.com.

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