Virtual Office Featured Article
August 10, 2012New Gadget Makes the iPod a Mobile Virtual Office
By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor
Two years ago an enterprising friend of mine got his iPhone working in an apartment that lacked cellular coverage by ignoring his voice plan and receiving calls exclusively through mobile VoIP. He used a combination of Skype In and Google (News - Alert) Voice, piggybacking off his home and office WiFi networks and leveraging the phone’s 3G network when commuting between the two.
Apple’s iPod Touch now can perform a similar trick thanks to a new device by startup FreedomPop, effectively turning the iPod Touch into a lower-cost iPhone. This makes the iPod Touch an efficient virtual office candidate.
The FreedomPop device is a $99 iPod case with a built-in transceiver that allows the iPod Touch to access both 3.5G WiMax and 4G LTE cellular data services. This unchains the iPad from WiFi networks when coupled with FreedomPop’s wireless broadband service, which gives up to 1GB of data transfer free each month and charges $10 per each additional GB of data usage.
Conceivably, the up-front case cost is all it takes to make the iPod Touch a virtual office.
That’s because the iPod Touch always has flirted with being a virtual office candidate. Skype, Facetime and other apps can be used for video conferencing. All the instant messaging networks, social media and cloud-based collaboration platforms are accessible by apps. Texts and voice can come from hosted VoIP solutions such as Google Voice or Skype, both available on the iPod.
The only element missing has been cellular access while an iPod Touch is not near a WiFi network. But with the FreedomPop device, this limitation disappears. The end result is a poor man’s smartphone. And as unified communications (UC) analyst Marty Parker recently noted, smartphones are pretty good options for hosted UC whether the user is a small business or an enterprise customer.
Turning an iPod Touch into a mobile virtual office and sidestepping cellular voice providers is a slick way to cut costs, but Stuart Zipper at Phone.com (News - Alert) also thinks it suggests the future of mobile telephony.
“Mobile telephony is, over what may be a fairly brief amount of time, going to migrate to a purely IP model,” he predicted in a recent post. “Indeed both Verizon (News - Alert) and AT&T within the past few weeks have unveiled new pricing plans that reflect that expectation.”
Right now it still takes a little thought to put together a virtual office using something like an iPod Touch, but “I suspect it won’t be long before just about every VoIP carrier has an app to turn any mobile device into a virtual extension of their office or home phone,” wrote Zipper.
“Right now Phone.com, for instance, is paving the way with its Mobile Office application, which can be used as a native application on Android (News - Alert) and Blackberry phones or by any cell phone with a browser including iPhones and Windows Phones.”
He noted that while mobile virtual offices can be created using free services such as Skype, users putting together a system should make sure to investigate mobile VoIP services that provide a much larger set of features and improved reliability with minimal additional cost.
Whether using free or paid mobile VoIP solutions, however, mobile virtual offices as embodied by the iPhone and the enhanced iPod Touch are the wave of the future, he said.
“What we’ve gotten so far is just a tantalizing look at what’s coming down the track,” according to Zipper.
To find out more about Joel Maloff (News - Alert) and Phone.com, visit the company at ITEXPO. To be held Oct. 2-5 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, TX, ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. Maloff is speaking during “Selling VoIP and Unified Communications via Channel Partners”. For more information on ITEXPO, click here.
Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
Phone.com Transforms Small Businesses Using VoIP and the Cloud : TMC podcast with Joel Maloff, vice president of Channel Development at Phone.com, about how to transform SMBs using VoIP and the cloud.
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