Cloud communications startup Jibe Mobile plans to introduce a desktop client in the coming months that will graft your mobile phone onto your PC browser, allowing you to make phone calls, send text messages, start chat sessions, launch video calls and even transfer files to other mobile phones.
That may sound like a lot of services you already use on a daily basis, from Skype and Google Hangouts to WhatsApp, but the difference is Jibe Mobile is attaching all of this to your existing mobile phone number. Your PC will basically act as an extension of your mobile phone, Jibe CEO Amir Sarhangi told me in a recent interview.
You don’t have to download a new smartphone app or sign up for a new messaging or social network. You don’t have to provision a new mobile phone number or forward calls and texts from another number, Sarhangi said. When your phone rings so does your browser and when an SMS pops into your phone’s inbox it appears in your web app.
We’ve already seen inklings of this type of fixed-mobile convergence service from some carriers. For example, Rogers Communications’ One Number is using CounterPath technology to build a softphone into the web browser. Many carriers have already brought SMS communications into the cloud, letting you text from a messaging portal on their websites.
But Jibe Mobile has something a little more ambitious in mind. It’s hooking into an emerging mobile industry standard called Rich Communications Suite (RCS), designed to give the mobile phone’s core voice and text functions a much-needed face lift.
Carriers in Europe are already using RCS (where it’s marketed as Joyn) to launch more feature-packed communications services, such as SMS chat apps with presence and file-sharing capabilities. But as Gigaom Research’s Mark Beccue points out, consumer response has been lukewarm, given that such services are already readily available from free over-the-top communications apps.
Jibe basically wants to extend all of those RCS service to the mobile browser using its cloud communications APIs. It’s building its technology on top of WebRTC standards and it doesn’t require any big technology overhaul to get up and running. Carriers can just plug its client into their consumer websites.
Perhaps the promise of turning any computing device you own into an extension of your primary mobile phone is the kick in the pants RCS needs to become viable. Despite its slow adoption, RCS does some distinct advantages over the myriad of other communications apps out there. First, everything is attached to your existing mobile phone number. Second, RCS has the ultimate fallback technologies of plain old voice calling and SMS, which every phone in the world supports.
It doesn’t matter if you’re calling from a PC or tablet to a phone. It doesn’t matter if the person you’re calling is on a different carrier or doesn’t have the same VoIP or video chat app you’re using. You can always fall back on the two most basic mobile communication media: a phone call and a text message.
Jibe currently provides RCS communications services for [company]Vodafone[/company], [company]Deutsche Telekom[/company] and [company]Telefonica[/company] in Europe, as well as Sprint in the U.S. The new browser feature will launch late this year or early next year, Sarhangi said, though Jibe isn’t revealing if it has any carrier partners lined up yet.