Net talk is cheap
Novmeber 16, 1998
by James A. Martin
(IDG) -- Another worry line appeared on Ma Bell's face last week, when MediaRing announced a beta release of MediaRing Talk99. The new version of this Internet telephony software adds the ability to leave a voice mail message if the person you called doesn't answer.
Unlike most Internet telephony software and services, you can use MediaRing Talk99 to contact someone by phone over the Net regardless of whether that person is also online when you call. The only requirements are that the recipient's PC must be on and the modem plugged into a phone line.
After you've entered a phone number, the connection process automatically occurs in the background, according to a MediaRing spokesperson. You can work in other programs while talking or waiting for incoming calls.
With a PC, an Internet connection, and telephony microphone, MediaRing Talk users can make unlimited global long-distance calls for a $4.95 flat monthly rate (in addition to the Internet service provider's fee). The first month is free.
MediaRing also supports caller ID and includes an integrated phone book, the ability to exchange text messages during a phone call, and a call log that keeps a list of incoming calls, even those you weren't there to accept.
MediaRing Talk99 requires a Pentium-133 PC or greater, 16MB of RAM, 7MB of free hard disk space, a 14.4-kbps modem, a sound card, a microphone, speakers or an earphone, and Windows 95 or 98.
Sound quality is generally good, according to a company spokesperson, though it's below what you'd experience with traditional phone connections. There can be a 1 to 2 second delay in signal transmission, depending on Net traffic. Daytime business hour calls, when Internet traffic is lightest, have the best quality, the spokesperson said.
The software is available for free download from the company's Web site (see link below). The final version is due in early 1999.
During Comdex this week MediaRing will show MediaRing Talk99 at Sands Convention Center in Meeting Room S-6068R.
Many other Internet telephony vendors are expected to debut new services and products at Comdex as well. Among the expected announcements: Smith Micro Software Inc. will demonstrate CommSuite ($69.95), which allows PC-to-PC phone calls over the Net, audio and video e-mail messages, and Internet faxing.
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