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Ray Ozzie's Talko startup puts voice in mobile focus

New mobile startup Talko from tech pioneer Ray Ozzie takes a consumerization-based approach to voice communications, but will it attract IT?

An industry pioneer aims to alter the way people communicate in the mobile era and experts believe it could see enterprise impact soon.

Talko, a mobile application from a startup of the same name headed by former Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie, recently came out of stealth.

While an enterprise-specific version is expected to come in the future, Talko could replace some enterprise communication functions if it provides enough security for admins, experts say.

Talko uses voice over IP technology so conversations can take place over Wi-Fi or cellular networks and be stored in the cloud. Those conversations can take place live or be saved and sent to one or more recipients. Participants can bookmark important information within Talko conversations, or tag action items.

The tool has clear productivity-enhancing capabilities that could catch on within enterprises, said Eric Klein, senior mobile analyst with VDC Research Group in Natick, Mass.

That includes the ability to send photos or text in the middle of Talko conversations seamlessly as part of collaboration efforts, and keep that conversation saved in the cloud on record.

"It's going to get a lot of buzz, not just because of the Ozzie name, but because it's got a lot of cool technology baked into it," Klein said.

We have to earn our way [into the enterprise].
Matt Popeproduct lead, Talko

There are many applications for instant messaging and video conferencing or some combination of technologies like Skype or Microsoft Lync, but the question is about how much control an organization can have over those applications and data, said Craig Mathias, founder of wireless advisory firm Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass.

"With the consumerization of IT comes the consumerization of applications," Mathias said. "People feel perfectly justified in taking corporate information and putting it in Dropbox, even though they may be expressly prohibited from doing so."

IT could find Talko attractive if it becomes a unified communications application that integrates into organizations and maintains the security and integrity of the data transmitted.

"The upside [of consumerization] is it costs less, the downside is … the data on the phone could be priceless and very valuable to an unauthorized third party," Mathias said. "The same thing is true for conversations, video and collaborations."

Talko looks to 'earn' enterprise cred

For now, Talko is only available as a free Apple iOS app. The company is currently working on clients for Google's Android operating system and the Web, said Matt Pope, product lead and co-founder.

Pope and Talko's third co-founder, Eric Patey, worked alongside Ozzie at Microsoft and Groove Networks, before it was acquired by Microsoft.

Once the Android app and Web client are available, Talko will launch a paid enterprise version of the app on a per-user, per-month basis, Pope said. Pope expects customers will be able to store Talko calls and data with a subscription.

Talko isn't currently positioning itself as an enterprise app, and execs hope consumer adoption leads to greater use as an organizational tool.

"We have to earn our way [into the enterprise]," Pope said.

In the consumerization age, taking that approach with an app eventually aimed at enterprises is a smart one, Klein said.

"In this kind of noisy environment, and even with a big name and probably big funding behind you, it's hard to get noticed," Klein said. "If they find a way to integrate with other platforms, that would be their way into the business market."

Once the enterprise version comes to fruition, Talko expects to add administrative capabilities so IT can manage and deploy the product to organizations, Pope said.

Talko currently has 10 employees spread between offices in Boston, San Francisco and Seattle.

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Is a mobile VoIP application like Talko appealing to your organization?