Looking beyond iPhone or Android - Ribbit creates a software "clone" phone

Ribbit has launched a mobile service that shows off its telephony technology - it could be be used to create software clones of phones ...
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

Ribbit, the Silicon Valley based subsidiary of BT, the UK telecom giant, this morning launched its Ribbit Mobile service which offers a suite of products ranging from control over phone lines to transcription of voice mail -- all managed from a web browser.

Ribbit is an impressive company. You can read more about the company and the Ribbit mobile service here.

Writing about Ribbit I was struck by one of the features of Ribbit Mobile that allows you to "clone" your phone in that you can make calls seemingly from the phone, via any web browser. It's very handy if you've lost your phone.

What intrigues me is that if this concept is taken a little further, it potentially creates an end-run around the "phone wars." All this discussion about which phone is better goes away. While it is not Ribbit's ambition to fight in the phone wars - third party developers could use its technology and its APIs to create full functioning software clones of mobile phones with full voice and data capabilities.

If you can clone a phone and run its applications within a virtual software environment, you could then potentially map that against a physical phone that isn't limited by the telecom network or the phone manufacturer. Users would be able to create phones with the functions and features they want.

And if you can also come up with a way of rewarding apps developers, you have a tremendously potent combination.

While Apple loves to boast about the huge numbers of iPhone app developers -- it is not a sustainable model if only a fraction of the developers can make money. The same is true for Android app developers.

Ribbit has figured out a good way to reward app developers by sharing revenue based on usage. Give away the app for free and get paid on how much usage it gets. It's a perfect meritocracy.

Also, Ribbit has access to BT's billing systems and the many millions of billing relationships it already has with households and businesses. This is bound to attract developers.

The Ribbit/BT model is a great example of how innovative telephony applications can become if they are freed from their physical constraints -- the phones.

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