eFusion's Pendse: Net telephony can link people to PCs

Internet telephony is gradually becoming more than just hype in the industry, as companies such as applications gateway provider eFusion are creating ways to make it a realistic business solution. The company has produced enhanced Internet services application gateways to allow traditional phone services - such as call-waiting and directory assistance - using IP telephony, as well as Interactive Web Response systems for call centres. These systems allow Internet subscribers to use one phone to speak with a customer representative while browsing the company's Web page. IDG's Laura Kujubu spoke with Ajit Pendse, president and CEO of eFusion, about what is in store for the maturing technologyIDG: What do you think it is going to take to get businesses to adopt Internet telephony?

Pendse: They're going to have to make some changes. For example, e-commerce: What we've forgotten in the world of electronic commerce is the people component. Internet telephony brings that component in, and I believe it is people who can make the difference in creating or enabling Web transactions and can provide the comfort in doing business with a merchant.

What needs to be done to make Internet telephony applications mainstream is to blend them with existing ways of doing business. Make it as transparent as possible. The only way transparency will happen is when application services are brought into the Internet overall.

We still need to change our thought processes a little bit. Voice over IP is not about bypassing the telephone company. Widespread adoption of IP telephony will be through the new applications, and when we do that, we really need to make sure that widespread adoption is enhanced or aided by simple, easy-to-use user interfaces.

What will be the migration path of IP telephony in the business world?

Right now, the first phase is what we call "push to talk" to a merchant. You're a Web-centric consumer, you push a button to talk, you then speak with a merchant. The next phase is when a customer is looking at an e-commerce site and speaks with an agent at the same time, because there's not enough information on the site. We understand from different sources that maybe as many as 70 per cent of all e-commerce shopping carts get abandoned because there's not enough information on a Web site. So first, there's voice, and then voice and data collaboration.

The third evolution of this phase - or the third phase in applications - would be for the telecommuter: allowing the remote user to get voice and data access transparently by being connected to the Internet.

The next wave would be that the PBX we know today is going to be replaced by an IP PBX. And the main transport pipe will no longer be a PSTN [public switched telephone network].

What will be some Internet telephony applications of the future?

A good example is when you get a call at home or at work, you can put one call on hold, take the other call, or bridge the two calls. Those types of applications are missing in IP telephony.

Another example is, for instance, when you are working from home and you could be logged in to your corporate network over a DSL [Digital Subscriber Line] connection and somebody calls you through your PBX. What happens today is, you're not at your desk and your voice mail takes a message for you. But imagine if there was an application server somewhere that knew the call was intended for you, then transferred that call, worked that into an IP format, and presented it to you on your PC while you were doing work.

You click on a button, and you accept the call. You can talk then with this person while you're online. These are the kinds of applications that we see developing over the long term.