By Martin Dunsmuir
Voicemail has been with us for many years. To listen to messages in a traditional voicemail system, the owner of the mailbox calls over the phone and uses the phone keypad to manage their voice mailbox. The most important feature to emerge in recent years is the ability of the voicemail system itself to deliver voicemail messages by email, as audio attachments. Messages are captured by the voicemail system and sent to the recipient’s email address. The user no longer needs to call for their voicemail over the phone (although this remains an option). Instead, they can use their computer to listen to their voicemail messages. The user’s voicemail and their other email are all accessed through the same interface and their email and voicemail are said to be “unified.”
In concept, voicemail forwarding is simple. There are three steps: first, the audio must be captured from the phone and stored in a digital data file. Second, the digital file must be delivered as an attachment via a correctly formatted email message. Finally, the user must be able to playback the message within their email client.
There are three predominant playback applications: Windows Media Player, QuickTime, and the RealPlayer, so any format chosen for audio attachments should preferably be playable by all these platforms. This has led to a focus on two formats: PCM audio (in wav files) and MP3, the ubiquitous digital music format. Both these formats are playable by the standard applications without special downloads. Furthermore, because these formats are cross-platform, users can forward messages to others, without worrying about playback formats.
Market Research shows that receiving voicemail via email has a great deal of appeal to users. Not only can the user keep a copy of all their important messages, and manipulate and organize their voicemail within their email environment, but being email, messages can be forwarded, copied, and otherwise manipulated just like any other email message. Furthermore, the use of the MP3 format means that messages can be treated just like music and manipulated in the same way.
Martin Dunsmuir is the Founder, President, and CTO of GotVoice, Inc. His background includes more than 25 years in technical and business development positions with Logica PLC, Microsoft, and RealNetworks.
[From Connection Magazine – October 2005]