Google Voice gains business-class PBX functions

Google Voice beefed up with presence, business features from an enterprise virtual PBX maker

While most observers find Google Voice to be an interesting consumer technology, at least one virtual PBX vendor is working to make the freebie service into a business-class offering. Today, OnState Communications announced that its cloud-based virtual call center and PBX fully support Google Voice. What's more, its product will bring presence to Google Voice.

"With this new support, OnState allows you to turn Google Voice into a full-featured PBX or call center for a fraction of normal industry prices," said Pat Kelly, CEO of OnState in a press release. "And while using Google Voice you can reap the benefits inherent to OnState, including multi-modal capabilities, business- and skills-based routing, seamless application integration, reporting and analytics, and our business presence capabilities."

Google Voice is an interesting service, causing something akin to hysteria from those already using the free service, which allows a person to forward a Google Voice phone number to multiple devices at the same time such as mobile, office, and home phones. Additionally, Google Voice offers a generous slate of services such as voicemail and voice-to-text conversions so voicemails can be read online. (What's missing, but promised, is support for number portability, allowing users to keep their existing home or mobile phone numbers when signing up for Google Voice.)

But it's not the kind of thing a business is going to want to run on, at least natively. That's where OnState wants to come in. OnState has created a presence engine, operating via its cloud-based software, and has integrated its presence engine with other cloud services. It supports Google Talk, Google Apps and now, Google Voice, but also Skype and It can even be used with SIP VoIP systems, mobile phones, and old fashioned traditional PBXs with desk handsets, the company says.

Business would use OnState's services in two ways. First they could use the virtual call center. By supporting Google Talk (and now Google Voice), customer service Web applications, could allow call center employees to interact with customers through a the Google Talk chat, a Skype phone call, and now a Google Voice call as well. Second, they could use the virtual PBX, tapping into these cloud-based applications to give teleworkers and office employees full-fledged PBX features (presence, call routing, etc.). This combo represents the ultimate challenge for proprietary software vendors like Microsoft. Microsoft wants users to package (and pay a lot for) Microsoft Office, Exchange, Office Communication Server, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, to do these functions.

While Google Voice is designed for the consumer, OnState adds business logic that lets it route calls based on business needs or job functions. By allowing teleworkers to use Google Voice, a company can offer its employees or its customers sophisticated call center functions at a fraction of the price of a private call center system. How much less? OnState charges $49.95 per month, per user for a virtual call center or virtual PBX, it says. You can't even buy a copy of Windows 7 for that.

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