Michael Robertson Is Calling, But Will Anybody Answer?

12/19/08Follow @bvbigelow

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to settle the case—and as part of the deal, Robertson changed the name of his company to Linspire. The business was acquired earlier this year by Xandros.

Robertson started another venture in 2003 called SIPphone to develop free VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) software to compete with Skype. The technology was based on SIP, or Session Initiation Protocol, a network protocol often used for VOIP. Robertson initially called the peer-to-peer network he was creating the Gizmo Project, but he now uses Gizmo5 for both the network and the proprietary free software used for the network. (SIPphone got $6 million in venture funding two years ago, in a round led by New York’s Dawntreader Ventures.)

On Monday, Robertson launched a new version of the Gizmo5 technology, dubbed GizmoCall.com, which enables users to log onto a Web site to make VOIP calls. The Web-based service can be used with any computer running a Windows, Macintosh or Linux operating system.

“Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to make a call on your computer, and to offer it at very low cost.” Robertson says the new service allows users to make phone calls to any phone number or Gizmo5 or SIP address. The Flash-based call service is free for SIP computer numbers, and costs 1.9 cents per minute using Gizmo5 credits.

The way Robertson sees it, “The public switched telephone networks are crashing into PC-Internet technology, and the Internet is going to win because it’s better, cheaper, faster and easier.” In this economy, he predicts people who are tired of paying $65 a month for mobile phone service will look for cheaper options for making calls.

Or maybe not.

Robertson described the offering on his “Michael’s Minute” blog, which includes an online survey that enables readers who read his blog to say whether or not they agree with him. Of the 114 people who had voted on his GizmoCall.com idea as of Thursday evening, only 9.6 percent (just 11 voters) agreed that it was a good idea, while 89.5 percent disagreed and less than 1 percent had no opinion.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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