Tello Outed at Last

by alec on January 24, 2006

Tello launched today.  This stealthy start-up has remained under the radar for the past 12 months, refining their vision and building a compelling product before bringing it to market.  During that time, I’ve been privileged to have several conversations with them and watch how their vision has evolved.  The easy way to think about Tello is to imagine what Skype might be like if it were built for a business user.  It’s a voice and IM app that can federate across multiple networks, support a heterogeneous universe of endpoints(hardware and software), and reflect presence information throughout the network.  It’s a big vision.  The Tello team has done a fabulous job of telling that story too.

Naturally, the commentary has been diverse:

Andy Abramson‘s short, but pithy comment: "Is Microsoft the enemy in this new venture launched by Jeff Pulver and a few tech all stars?"  He’s right on the money.  Tello is trying to play the cross platform card to Microsoft’s Windows-only LCS.

Stowe Boyd‘s insightful piece wonders if they can deliver on the vision.  He writes: "This group is prescient enough to find the battlefield, but way too small to hold it." 

Erick Schonfeld muses "Sounds like Tello wants to go beyond cheap phone calls and use VoIP and IM as an application platform to connect people across businesses. Voice is the new platform."  Wrong Erick.  Voice 2.0 is the new platform!

Oliver Starr is a good deal more skeptical.  He writes: Personally, I think this one is a wait and see. Let them role out the beta and we can learn via the end user experience if the “presence” that everyone is talking about is an enabling phenomenon that supports improved work efficiency or rather the realization of a more invasive tech-future in which you can unfortunately say I’ve met big brother and her name is Ma Bell.

Om Malik also published a lengthy write-up and wondered how well the company would do if the inevitable feature creep, combined with a "good enough" sentiment from consumers would hold the company back.

In Tello and Iotum do the “presence” thing, the Globe’s Mathew Ingram compares Tello and iotum.  There are many similarities but also many differences.  He concludes with:  Will such “presence”-oriented apps catch on with a time-pressed and increasingly fragmented consumer? Mike at TechDirt remains skeptical, as do VOIP blogger Tom Keating, Oliver over at MobileCrunch and Stowe Boydt, but Iotum and Tello — and some high-profile finance types, in the latter case — are banking on it.

Throughout the day I’ve been getting a steady stream of emails from people wanting to know if Tello and iotum are competitors.  Right now, the answer to that is no.  We’re complementary technologies.  Tello is focused on some complicated, real work network signalling problems.  iotum, on the other hand, is building a complex human behavioural analysis system.  iotum’s core competency is relevance, not networking.

Anyway, congratulations to the Tello team.  It’s been a long time coming.

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