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Meet The Ex-Googlers Helping Their Former Bosses Beat Microsoft To Your Office Phone
For two years Craig Walker got a lot of puzzled looks about his chosen line of work: selling voice-conferencing software. Few technologies are as mundane and ridiculed as the conference call. It is hardly the kind of Big Idea one would expect from the entrepreneur who ran a company that pioneered phone dialing for a Web browser (Dialpad, which Yahoo YHOO -3.19% bought and turned into Yahoo Voice) and in 2006 created the first one-number-that-rings-everywhere-at-once service (GrandCentral, which Google GOOGL -1.76% bought and turned into Google Voice).
Walker's three-year-old company, Switch Communications, has done fairly well with UberConference, a simple, PIN-free cloud service. It's coming up on 1 billion call minutes so far and grosses nearly $1 million per month from customers paying $10 a month for the premium version. But UberConference was never Walker's real objective, just merely a step on the way to destroying the sleepy, bloated market for business phone service. "Conference calling was the low-hanging fruit, because it sucks. But as the next-gen provider of voice solutions, there's no limit unless the world runs out of phone numbers," says Walker, 49.
This month Walker introduced his company's big play, a service called Switch that replaces workers' desk phones and numbers with an app that works across whichever devices they want. If your boss calls your number, you can take it on your cellphone while walking from your car and then transfer it to your PC-connected headset at your desk. And when Switch connects to Google Apps it pulls in whatever data the apps have on the caller, such as e-mails, calendar meetings and shared files.
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