Calling a company and encountering a speech recognition system can be disconcerting. At first, the experience is like talking to a sympathetic person who understands one's spoken replies. Then some miscommunication makes clear that the person is actually software that translates one's spoke words into phone system commands, as an alternative to key-press response. Still, some like the experience, even if others find it frustrating or a waste of time. Either way, the technology has until now typically been available only to large organizations. A new tie-up between Digium and Vestec makes it available to the many smaller businesses that use IP PBXes based on the Digium-developed Asterisk open-source software.
It was one of the most obvious match-ups ever, particularly in the current economic climate. Combining Asterisk open-source IP PBX software with Skype's cheap Internet calling service was the ultimate penny-pincher for cost-conscious small businesses. Ironically, Skype for Asterisk costs money, while the Asterisk software itself doesn't. Either way, the combination lets a company's employees make and receive calls to and from Skype users, as well as people using landline or cellular phones, around the world cheaply or for free.