The PhoneBoy Blog


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AIM Phoneline Gets Simply Relevant

I actually found out about this last night when I got an IM from Andy Abramson saying "You want in on a scoop? Call Alec Saunders." So of course I did. I probably should have wrote about this before now, as Andy, Alec, and a slew of others already have. Unfortunately, my mind and life don't work that way, so sue me. :)

If you haven't already read about it somewhere else, AOL is announcing their developer initiative for AIM Phoneline. This provides a mechanism for third-party companies to participate in the AIM Phoneline ecosystem, much like what Skype does. While Skype has an obvious headstart here, I think the AOL initiative has far greater potential, especially given Skype iron-fisted grip on the core network.

From the press release: 

AOL will introduce three new application programming interfaces (APIs) in the fall that will give developers and manufacturers the ability to:

  • Personalize the AIM Phoneline service by adding ringback tones and unique ring tones for frequent callers.
  • Enable a wide variety of USB devices such as speakerphones and phone adapters that will allow standard cordless phones to initiate and receive calls with the AIM Phoneline service.
  • Build new call management functionality into the AIM Phoneline service such as context and relevance-based call handling that could treat each call on the basis of rules that use Caller ID, online presence, calendar activities and more.
  • The folks over at iotum have been working very closely with AOL over the past four months or so on the call management API. In fact, my good buddy Alec Saunders tells me they made several changes to the API as a result of their interactions.

    What struck me about this is that AOL sees their place in the ecosystem–as plumbing. They've got a relatively open telephony platform where third parties will be able to develop their own solutions and not have to worry about "the plumbing." The fact they were willing to work with third party companies like iotum so closely suggests they are far more open than Skype, which still doesn't have a call transfer API despite what I'm sure has been constant nagging by iotum and others. Alec tells me "these guys get it."  

    You'll be able to see a demo of iotom with AIM Phoneline at next week's VON show (that'd be one I wouldn't want to miss, but alas I'm not going) as well as other products.

    Something else from the press release that I want to point out:

    As part of the Open AIM Phoneline program, AOL will promote its partners’ applications and devices at an online store that users can assess by simply clicking the “Shop” link off of the AIM Phoneline dashboard.

    Not only is AOL making it possible to use their network, they will actively promote your product or service in their store. I presume AOL will get a cut of the sale, but that's to be expected.  Alec tells me that iotum will be available in their store, making their service available to the 43 million AIM users. That's a huge deal for iotum!

    My one concern with AIM Phoneline right now is I have to use Windows. I would hope that, like Skype, AOL makes AIM Phoneline-capable clients available on multiple platforms, or at least make a mechanism available for third parties to make their own AIM Phoneline-capable clients. Given the other efforts AOL has put forth around AIM, I would have to assume something is in the works. 

    AOL seems to be about creating a real symbotic relationship with their partners. If AOL can get the right partners involved and properly execute on this vision, AOL will catapult themselves into the center of what others are calling "Voice 2.0." But as we all know, it's more than about voice. 


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