After being announced to much fanfare at CES 2011 it seems that MagicJack Vocaltec is finally shipping their new MagicJack Plus. The MagicJack Plus device still has a USB plug permitting its use with a computer. However, it also has a network jack allowing it to function as a freestanding FXS device, not unlike a traditional ATA.
I spoke with magicJack Vocaltec CEO Dan Borislow about the new magicJack plus. One of the first questions I asked was about wideband codec support. Dan said, “One of the largest carriers, besides ourselves is Neutral Tandem and they have wideband codec availability and they transcode. Obviously, our own gateways have wideband available as well. So for the great majority of calls we can do wideband.” He explained that for magictalk-to-magicjack calls they are already wideband. I asked which wideband codec they use and he explained, “We developed a G.711 wideband codec of our own but we have the capability to do Speex or G.722 as well. But currently we use our own 711 wideband codec.”
Will wonders never cease? I guess that shows that HDVoice is getting some traction in a wide variety of circles…even amongst those who are leading the race to $ 0.00/minute.
Barron’s has a curious story about the merger of YMAX and Vocaltech. YMAX is the Florida-based parent company of Magic Jack. VocalTech, based in Israel, is one of the software pioneers of the voice-over-IP revolution. From their roots in the first retail soft phone they went on to become an early leader in VoIP to PSTN gateways.
My very first exposure to VoIP was using Vocaltech’s Internet phone software way back in 1997. At that point I was on dial-up and Internet Phone allowed me to call my girlfriend who lived 900 miles away without concern for call duration or cost.
Apparently Magic Jack has taken some steps to cease delivering service to people who access the service with clients other than bone fide Magic Jack dongles. This happened some time in the past week and has been noted in the PBX-in-a-Flash forums as well as the Unofficial Magic Jack Support Forums.
Some offer the conjecture that such treatment of customer will in some way hurt the company. I doubt that is the case. The percentage of their users using Asterisk to pass calls to them is likely extremely small. It’s also quite likely very obvious to them, both in terms of average minutes per user per month and the reported SIP client name.
Some time ago in a informal VUC post-call session Karl Fife brought up Magic Jack as a topic of discussion. He felt at the time that they were very possibly doomed to failure by their business model. I doubt that this is the case, and laid forth the logic of my belief. Well, earlier a recent thread over at BroadbandReports.com hinted at support for my theory.
It helps to start out understanding Magic Jack and their business model. Simply put, you pay $40 in the first year to establish an account and get the Magic Jack device. Thereafter you can make calls over your broadband by plugging a traditional phone into the MJ dongle, and the dongle into your PC.
To me Magic Jack is completely boring on its own. $20/yr for unlimited calling in the US is ok. In fact, that’s cheap. But needing to use your PC to run their soft phone client from that USB device is lame.
Some folks at the Unofficial Magic Jack forum have going to considerable length to patch HP thin clients running Windows XPe to also run the Magic Jack software. Thus they can turn off their main PC and just leave the T5700 running. But that’s a lot of effort for very little return.