Back in March, I had an exclusive first look at Lycos Phone, which is a rebranded softphone client made by Globe7. On Tuesday next week, Globe7 will launch a major new release of their softphone client, though they've quietly made the 3.0 software available for download now. The new version loads much faster, has a complete video library for users and allows users to earn free credits for the phone simply by watching videos. Yep, you read that correctly - you can earn PSTN dialout minutes simply by watching videos. This is the first "earn phone credits" VoIP application. What is important to note is that they are giving credits for watching the video content, not for watching ads or clicking on the ads. I just earned $0.03 for watching 2 videos, including the Pirates of the Caribbean trailer. I calculated that I earned roughly $0.0048 per minute of watching (roughly 1/2 cent per minute).
Here's a demo of the Globe7 softphone client I captured:
In addition to the earned credit feature, Globe7 is offering 1 GB free storage space for video and photos uploading and sharing, breaking news feeds, video streaming, and other features. The product is SIP-based and the codecs they are using VP6 supported by Macromedia Flash player. They are using Akamai solution for streaming all the videos. The audio codecs are ILBC and GSM.
The launch of the 3.0 version coincides with a major marketing push in the U.S. According to Globe7, they will initially be targeting college campuses with campus bookstore promotions in 525 colleges and universities in the U.S., as well as pre-game promotions. That will be followed by events such as concerts for the general public including mobile kiosks where interested folks can check out the voice and video quality of the new application. They will also be targeting communities within major metropolitan area that have a high degree of international phone call usage.
Screenshot of PSTN phone dialing screen
In the next two months, Globe7 will follow in the United States with the launch of its Wi-Fi capable PDA with embedded VoIP. It will be inexpensively priced and will also allow video to be received and to earn credits towards VoIP minutes. They claim that the Globe7 PDA will be priced economically enough for families to afford two PDA's, allowing them to talk PDA to PDA for free. Who needs walkie-talkies? ;) Actually walkie-talkies have a range of 2 miles or more - good for the ski slopes. WiFi doesn't reach quite that far.
Of course, the "pay to watch" model may have some trouble in the VoIP marketplace with several VoIP companies offering free PSTN dialing. For instance, Skype offers free U.S. & Canada calling until the end of the year. Jajah offers free worldwide dialing, and there are a few others.
Of course, at least Globe 7 has a legitimate business model that intends to make a profit by rewarding users for viewing videos and attracting advertisers for the confirmed/tracked eyeballs. How long can the free models be sustained? Some would argue that the race to free calling has begun and it's only a matter of time before ubiquitous free calling takes place. Guess we'll have to wait and see if this "pay to watch content model" works in the VoIP space. Stay tuned...
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