Ringio aims to bring big phone features to small business

The software-based phone system offers many PBX and call-center capabilities

A software-based phone system launched Monday aims to give small businesses many features of advanced call-center software and soon will work with Salesforce.com and other CRM platforms, according to startup Ringio.

The phone software, also named Ringio, runs on the Adobe Air platform for compatibility with most PC operating systems and can deliver a large amount of information about a caller as soon as their call comes in. On the employee's PC, it can pop up the history of the contact's calls with the enterprise along with any written notes about their interactions, said Ringio Chairman Michael Zirngibl. He introduced the product at the eComm conference in Burlingame, California. Within a few months, the company plans to upgrade the product so it can bring in information from CRM (customer relationship management) platforms, beginning with Salesforce.com.

Small businesses can set up Ringio quickly without much IT expertise, according to Zirngibl. They can download the software and set up and manage an account on Ringio's Web site. Users can pull in contact information from sources including Gmail and the Google Contacts application. Information in those systems, such as phone numbers, will automatically be updated in Ringio when it changes.

Ringio is available now in English. It costs US$25 per month per employee, with a minimum of four employees. It is also available in a "white box" system for service providers to create a privately branded service. The company is developing clients in Spanish and German that can be demonstrated on request, Zirngibl said.

In addition to the PC client, Ringio has an application for Android smartphones, which is available now from its own Web site and should be available in the Android Market soon.

Ultimately, Ringio envisions bringing a wide variety of other information into the software to help make conversations more personal. For example, companies could set up the system so that when a known contact calls, it will display that person's latest entries on social-networking services such as Twitter and Facebook.

The phone system also gives employees a shared address book and call history, and includes typical IP PBX (Internet Protocol private branch exchange) features such as presence information on co-workers, an automated attendant to field calls, and skills-based routing to direct incoming calls to the most appropriate team member.

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