VoxOx: Not quite a Skype killer, but close

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It’s hard out there for a VOIP solution. Skype rules the desktop and Vonage rules the den so where does an upstart like VoxOx belong?

The product, founded by a group of voice networking ninjas who wanted to create a desktop-based VOIP and chat solution with full IM and social network integration. Think of it, then as a cross between Adium/Digsby and Skype with a little Grand Central thrown in.

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The beta I tried – and that you can get here (but read on to find out how you can get free call time) was fairly polished. It works on Windows and OS X and each account comes with its own phone number which means friends and relations can call you right on your desktop. This, I believe, is VoxOx’s killer feature. If I could completely do away with my phone while at the PC I’d be a happy man.

First, let’s talk about the calling system. The phone service includes 2 free hours of call time and, as mentioned before, a free phone number. It also has a call forwarding system that sends calls to multiple phones – sort of like GrandCentral. You also have voicemail and fax control as well as conference calling and video calling.

It also works with most IM platforms including Yahoo! Messenger and AIM. It also supports SMS messages and uses a unique system of email-based chatting that lets you send emails to contacts in a way that mimics instant message chats.

Finally, it supports Facebook, Linked In, and MySpace contact connections as well as file transfers from almost any window. There are also plans to offer compatible hardware that will convert standard telephones into VoxOx phones.

But the best feature? The “Fun” button. This brings up a set of SoundBoards that let you send audio clips over the phone. Right now there is a Terminator soundboard that let’s you say “I’ll be back” to folks over the telephone. Ok. Maybe it was just fun for me.

VoxOx is still in Beta so I don’t want to comment too much on the interface but I think most users familiar with Skype or Adium will find it slightly cluttered. An initial wizard allows you to add all of your accounts and import your contacts from various services. Once they’re in the program you can contact them using various methods including phone calls for contacts with phone numbers and IM via the various social networks.

One pet peeve: you can’t turn off the visual notifications in OS X. I don’t care when my contacts come online, but VoxOx wants to tell me for each and every one. The beta also crashed quite a bit and I couldn’t connect to the online contact update service that you’re moved to when trying

In short, VoxOx is an amped up calling service with a few potentially game changing features. Is it a game-changer right now? Partially. I think the free phone number and calling facilities are the real draw at this early date and as the UI is improved and streamlined VoxOx essentially replaces standalone IM programs and browsers when it comes to IM. VoxOx is a switchboard on your desktop and works quite well as it stands. The call quality is good, the pricing is strong, and the feature set is well-thought out and implemented. The only hurdle is convincing a jaded public to switch. Give it a try and report back with any problems, praise, or concerns and we’ll send it along to VoxOx.

That said, VoxOx was kind enough to offer 1200 minutes of free calling to the first 500 users to register via our CrunchGear and TechCrunch links. Click either one – maybe we can use the links as a show of support for each site! First come, first served, so head over now and give it a go.

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