SAN MATEO (03/20/2000) - Before launching computer telephony upstart Com2001.com Inc., the company's President and CEO David Perez scoured around for an affordable way to process calls to his former business on a PC platform.
The closest he came was an ISDN-based solution from the phone company that carried a whopping price tag of $2000 a month for a mere two ports.
Perez then began developing a prototype based on Telephony Application Programming Interface (TAPI), which would become the basis for Com2001.com's flagship product, InternetPBX.
Perez quickly sold Microsoft Corp. and GTE Corp. on the concept. And just a year ago, Michael Dell approached him with an investment proposition and a deal to install Com20001.com capabilities on Dell Computer Corp.'s core products.
Perez is now looking to leverage Com2001.com's technology ties with Microsoft to capture a healthy share of the enterprise and mid-level corporate-telephony market.
It is a market so consumed with the promise of converged voice and data that buyers may soon be ready to scrap the traditional PBX altogether. Perez spoke recently with InfoWorld Senior Editor Jennifer Jones about InternetPBX and some of the company's latest efforts to reach the enterprise.
InfoWorld: Let's start by talking about some of the hurdles you face in trying to get corporations to consider migrating to an IP-based telephony solution.
Perez: By far, the biggest challenge we face is educating the customer that these solutions are available today. I would then say my next biggest challenge is finding network providers that provide reliable IP connectivity. When we are putting in these gateways, we have got to have [99.999 percent availability].
Even when you have a big network operator like PSINet, MCI, [or] Sprint, those services cannot go down once a month or once a week. That is not permissible when you are providing a software voice solution.
InfoWorld: Do you see network services and related technology improving enough for you in your efforts to make significant inroads to the enterprise?
Perez: These are all really short-term challenges. As I've said, the biggest problem is educating the consumer. So, yes. And the faster the ISPs move to the next level, the more we will be able to create an infrastructure where an enterprise can tie everything together.
InfoWorld: Let's focus for a moment specifically on Com2001.com's strategy for InternetPBX.
Perez: We are a company developing products closely around the Microsoft NT.
With InternetPBX, we are trying to begin replacing the traditional PBX by aligning [functionalities] like voice and fax with Microsoft Outlook, Explorer, or even Netscape. The product offers next-generation services through remote access by incorporating human sounding text to speech functionality -- again tied to a Microsoft BackOffice and Microsoft Exchange servers.
InfoWorld: How do you think you stack up to your competition, which might not be tied as closely to Microsoft?
Perez: Our competition often comes from hardware vendors who are trying to tie together a patchwork of solutions, which are not [designed] from the ground up to adhere to standards and are not Microsoft NT-friendly.
InfoWorld: Aren't you experimenting with new channels to reach enterprise customers?
Perez: Well, we've just come out with a new product called InternetCommunicator, which we have sold to an ISP in New York. It is a scalable ASP solution that is easily deployable and scales to a large number of users. The ASP model is a nice fit for these capabilities because a company doesn't have to buy software or maintain applications.
InfoWorld: Do you foresee [that] more of your customers, especially your larger ones, will turn more to ASPs for such services?
Perez: I do. A lot of the larger customers sometimes fear new technology and want to walk slowly. But at the same time, they often won't have a problem farming out their voice mail and phone systems.
InfoWorld: How [do] Com2001.com pitch InternetPBX and your other products [benefit] the enterprise?
Perez: We really stress the loss of productivity for employees having to go to the fax machine or remember different passwords for voice and e-mail. The profile we are after is the company or department that has remote workers or sales representatives [who] are not tied to their [desks].
InfoWorld: You alluded to some recent activities Com2001.com has had with Sprint. Can you provide some more details on that?
Perez: We've been on a road show with Sprint and Microsoft over the past four months, demonstrating capabilities of InternetPBX to Sprint's partners and resellers of their long distance service. Sprint has used our solutions to demonstrate features of their ION [Integrated On Demand Networking] features.
Com2001.com, in San Diego, Calif., can be reached at www.com2001.com..