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Call it the walkie-talkie, evolved. That's the push-to-talk hook that has helped Voxer carve itself a strong niche in the ever-growing consumer messaging app space. Send a voice message and the recipient can respond in real-time.
Now, Voxer aims to attract more business users to its Voxer for Business service with new features that make it more palatable to IT departments, such as single sign-on (SSO).
"We are a poster child for the consumerization of IT," says chief operating officer Itamar Kandel. "About 20 percent of our users are using [the free consumer version of] Voxer for business purposes today. And about 80 percent of Fortune 1000 have Voxer accounts, using the consumer version."
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Voxer for Business, which launched in 2011 and starts at $4.95 per user for up to 500 users, builds on what the company has established with its large consumer base, which chief operating officer Itamar Kandel says numbers in the "tens of millions of users" in more than 200 countries.
Voxer's double whammy of push-to-talk voice messaging and instant messaging is its clearest differentiator from the rest of the crowded market. "At end of the day, our competition is the conference call, Skype, push-to-talk from the carriers, e-mail, carrier pigeons. Any way to connect to people could be seen as competition. But we're not going to obsolete those," says Kandel. "We will obsolete inefficient Skype, conference calls, and e-mail. At the heart of the service is live voice messaging, text messaging, pictures. Hit the button and record." Data is stored in cloud, but if you record something when you have no reception, Voxer will record it and then send it to the cloud when you have a connection again.
Since Voxer does text messaging as well, Kandel admits that WeChat and WhatsApp are competitors, of a sort. "But all they can do is recorded voice, because of our patents. And people want live voice," asserts Kandel. "Every time we reduce latency, we see a spike in usage. People want to talk live, not in a series of voice mails or e-mails."
Voxer for Business' Web interface, with the push-to-talk button front and center for recording voice messages.
As Voxer continues to evolve its business product, it's focusing on features that its users need. A month ago, the company released Voxer for Web. Available only for its paid business PC users, the Web version enables messaging across any platform, and adds a full on-screen keyboard for use with touch devices. Also around the same time, Voxer enabled unique usernames for its business users, as opposed to the auto-generated name provided by the consumer product.
The latest additions to the business service reflects the need for messaging to mature in a way that makes it viable for business on more than just an ad-hoc basis. "Businesses want to own their data," says Kandel. "If you Vox from a consumer account, it's your data. If you Vox from a business account, the business owns the data, and the data is not lost when someone leaves the company."
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