Verizon's iobi Debuts in Mid-Atlantic States

NEW YORK - Iobi, the most innovative tool to hit the wired phone line since Caller ID, now is available to homes and small businesses from New Jersey to the Virginias.

Families and workers now can manage all their communications functions on their computers with just a click of a mouse. With iobi, a customer can handle incoming calls in real time; manage call records, voice messages and calendars; synchronize multiple electronic address books; get a text message notice of an incoming call or new voice message; and lots more.

In addition, many of the iobi functions, such as retrieving voice messages, accessing address book entries and setting up call forwarding, can be managed through two additional iobi access points - the iobi Web site or the iobi toll-free voice portal.

Two products, iobi Home and iobi Professional, are already available in many parts of the country. The expansion of the iobi service area to New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the District of Columbia is part of Verizon's plan to make iobi Home and iobi Professional available throughout the Verizon local service footprint.

[A brief online Webex demonstration will be available at 1 p.m. today. View the demo at https://verizon.webex.com/verizon/j.php?ED=87609642&UID=31645592, password iobidemo, and also dial in to 813-273-0379 passcode 649-8850 for the audio.]

Iobi Offers Virtual Presence

"Iobi is a cluster of features unmatched by any other wired or wireless service," said Judy Verses, senior vice president of national marketing for Verizon. "With a single tool, communications management in our complex and busy world becomes stunningly simple.

"This is a feature set that distinguishes a Verizon phone line from all other communications services by linking phone call, e-mail, text and voice-message management in a single, easy-to-use service," she said. "With features like programmable call-forwarding, a real-time call director tool for handling calls as they come in with a click of the mouse, and integrated directories and calendars, iobi trumps traditional and voice-over-IP features."

Iobi is driven by a Verizon-proprietary data platform that integrates the Verizon wireline network with other networks and with the Internet. This enables otherwise separate networks to work with each other. For example, with iobi, a user can view on the computer a list of all incoming calls and voice mail messages. Iobi lets the user play the voice messages through the PC with a click of a mouse and to forward the messages in the form of sound files via e-mail. Iobi also lets users automatically send an alert to any wireless phone every time the iobi-enabled phone line rings or a voice message is left.

Because both versions of iobi let customers observe and manage calls to an iobi-enabled number, users can virtually be in two places at once. A working mother, for example, can monitor incoming calls to the home phone and see when her child's school is calling. The parent can then choose to transfer the call to her office phone or to forward it to her wireless handset or to a caregiver's phone, in real time.

For business people, that same feature lets them appear to be in the office even if they are in an airport, hotel, or client's office. They never need to miss an important call.

Another popular iobi feature is the ability to schedule call forwarding by the hour and day of the week, automatically directing calls as they come in.

Iobi Professional Popular With Small Businesses

With iobi Professional, small businesses reap the benefits of advanced telecommunications without an investment in new hardware. Managers have the added power of an administrative console to control features assigned to individual office lines. Because there is no hardware, installation is quick and easy.

"Informal feedback from customers in the Northeast tells us iobi Professional is more to small-business owners than just another software tool; it's a whole set of tools for managing connections and time," said Karmalita Contee-Borders, product manager.

"Communications features have long been a godsend to small-business people," she said. "What they want to do is exercise their skills and manage their products and services first and cope with managerial functions second. Good communications tools facilitate that."

The most popular features and their applications, based on informal feedback, are:

  • Anywhere availability. Using spontaneous or calendar-based forwarding in conjunction with on-screen or wireless TXT-based call alerts, users are available for the urgent customer query and can appear to their callers that they are right there, on the premises, answering the phone.

"All businesses nowadays involve some mobility, some field time, and all are competitive. There is an advantage to being available when customers need you. The alternative is to miss the call and lose the customer," Contee-Borders said.

  • Time management is augmented. Being able to see each call as it comes in and then take it, forward it, send it to voice mail or reject it gives absolute time-management control to the user. Working on accounting? Let the sales call go to voice mail. Drafting product plans? Forward the supplier call to a subordinate.

"We learned from Caller ID in the small-business bundle that knowing who's calling gives the called party the choice to stay on task or allow the distraction," Contee-Borders said. "This tool takes it one step further by allowing instant disposition of the call."

  • Customers consider iobi Professional the best bargain in telecommunications.

"The amount of time and trouble, the number of key contacts and messages, the volume of connections iobi helps manage more than cover the cost," she said. "Customers tell us iobi Professional is the perfect bundle of features at a price that individual features purchased a la cart could never touch."

Both iobi services can be provisioned on any Verizon landline and require only a small software client, which is downloaded over the Web. No special hardware is necessary. Accounts are ID and password-protected. High-speed Internet access is not required. Verizon voice messaging services enhance the value of the iobi products.

Iobi Home costs $7.95 per month per line and includes the Caller ID and call forwarding features of regular phone service at no additional charge. Iobi Professional is $11.95 per month per line. Iobi Professional has all of the features of iobi Home as well as an administrative console that allows an office manager to control the iobi features available to individual office lines. Both services are provided by Verizon Long Distance.

Verizon also offers a version of iobi to its largest business and government customers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Customers served by Centrex calling systems can add iobi Enterprise features to business lines.

An online press kit including high-resolution video, a flash demo and a features list is available at http://newscenter2.verizon.com/kit/iobi/.

Verizon Communications Inc.

With more than $71 billion in annual revenues, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon has a diverse work force of more than 214,000 in four business units: Domestic Telecom provides customers based in 28 states with wireline and other telecommunications services, including broadband. Verizon Wireless owns and operates the nation's most reliable wireless network, serving 47.4 million voice and data customers across the United States. Information Services operates directory publishing businesses and provides electronic commerce services. International includes wireline and wireless operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.