BT Retail’s Stephen Stokols, Vice-President of strategy and business development, recently was the keynote speaker at the “Digital LifeStyle Aggregators” Mashup event here in London. Stephen spoke passionately and honestly about how BT needs to change from its telecom-centric focus to become a more agile web communication services company i.e adapt or die.
By way of an example to show the changes currently taking place in BT Retail, Stephen presented one of the forthcoming new web services that has been developed in-house (in India), called BT Contact. The aim of BT Contact is to provide a federated communication portal that links all of your email accounts, IM clients and address books in one place whilst additionally providing a host of value added core digital communication services such as VoIP, SMS and a yellow pages business finder service.
This service is currently in alpha but you can register on the site now for a trial username and password. The service only works in IE right at the moment but BT are working on ensuring it is a cross-browser application. In many ways, BT Contact is very much like the personalised information homepages we are beginning to see, such as MyYahoo, NetVibes, PageFlakes or Live.com, but in the case of BT Contact you configure the browser desktop to suit your communication needs using a number of plugin modules. Although the initial service will be free, BT do plan to provide a number of chargeable services as the product reaches nearer production.
Right now I think BT would appreciate the feedback as to the viability of the product in the market and the potential direction it should take. As I said this is a the first glimpse of a number of new web services coming from BT in the next 12-24 months which will form part of the larger BT 21C network plans. Only time will tell if BT can adapt but its a start.