Ribbit, a company that I've covered a lot because of their developer components that provide any Flex developer the ability to enable calling functionality in the browser, is now releasing a web-based phone service codenamed "Amphibian". TechCrunch has a lot of the details but this is a pretty big deal.
Ribbit's components are starting to get a lot of traction and the ability to call from a browser right from the Flash player is a great feature. But this new service takes it above and beyond that. They have integrated a full call management system right inside the browser. You can check your voicemail messages, see a transcription of the message in addition to making and receiving calls. They even provide text messages as well as an iPhone interface to check the transcribed messages. But Amphibian takes it a step further because it can act as a call hub. You can manage a variety of numbers inside Amphibian and actually transfer the calls between various numbers. In some ways it seems like a GrandCentral competitor.
Amphibian is also a very good example of why I continue to be really excited about what AIR offers. They started the entire Ribbit project in Flex and now they've used Flex to create a browser-based version of Amphibian. For a lot of people that will be perfect. But turning it into an AIR application is going to be relatively easy, so they're doing it, and they'll provide a downloadable desktop application for anyone who wants the out of browser experience.
AIR isn't about replacing what you're doing inside the browser. It's just another option for your users that's easy to create because the programming technologies for each platform are the same. The guys at Ribbit are showing that perfectly. And as cheesy as it sounds, I think this frog is close to finding the proverbial princess and turning into a prince of Silicon Valley. Cote and I did a podcast with Charles Freedman from Ribbit on RIAWeekly.