Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Flash Developer's Prince...Ribbit

I’m not sure, but I think the prize for the biggest online tease (this week) should go to Ribbit. Having read John Foley's post today about the company's plans to unveil "Silicon Valley's first phone company", I couldn't help myself...I just had to dig deeper.

Based in Mountain View CA, Ribbit has software that integrates mobile calling with online applications. There are other players in this space. Namely, Russian based Flashphone which is currently in beta and is targeted purely to consumers. It's Ribbit's love-in for developers that has caught my attention today. Looking at their team of hard core software and communications veterans, it's natural that Ribbit will effectively rally Flash developers worldwide to broaden the use of their platform. This could disrupt many existing business models.

Here are three major points I've gathered that make Ribbit a perfect disruptive storm:

  1. Because it runs on Flash there is no downloading involved to use the service and therefore is accessed on any browser on any web site.

  2. Flash has reached 99% penetration worldwide, and so the applications will be accessible to virtually everyone instantaneously - much like reading PDF files, adoption will not be an issue.

  3. Ribbit is focusing heavily on Flex developers to take the software to its full potential. On December 13th, there will be a developer's event where Ribbit plans to demonstrate how easy it is to code Adobe Flex and AIR applications to make/receive calls, record and send voice messages, manage contacts and tap into all the other cool things a class 5 softswitch infrastructure has to offer.

Saleforce has been testing an integration with Ribbit's platform since October. John Foley's post has a demo that shows how the application could work specifically in a CRM environment. Highlights include attaching voice mails to proposals and transcribing voice mail to text (the data mining opportunities in the context of sales management software must be great).

The developer blog alludes to some upcoming features in their 2nd beta release. Users can register to the service, manage and access the account anywhere online. It's beginning to look an awful lot like a social networking opportunity to me. With cell phone penetrations estimated by eMarketer to exceed 100% in the US, and the addiction teens have to their mobile devices, the marriage between browsers and calling is one that holds promise. Even if a social network isn't built around the platform in some way, it will certainly still turn heads in the space.

In the local search and directory business, I can only imagine the features that could be developed in Flash. Currently the space is just getting over the rush of click to call features online but with rich web applications turning data management and its esthetics on its head (again), the sector may be in for yet another shake up.

On December 13th I'll secretly wish I was a Flash developer in San Fransisco dreaming up fabulous scenarios for applications based on such a simple yet powerful premise...voice.

Tomorrow I promise not to pick on Skype.

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