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Two telecom veterans on Thursday unveiled a plug-and-play USB phone jack called MagicJack, which turns a PC into a communications hub.
The MagicJack is a device the size of a matchbox that acts as a phone jack for the PC and lets consumers or small businesses plug in their existing phones to make cheap local and long-distance calls.
Together with the MagicJack software, the device offers various features including call waiting, 911 service, conference calling, voice mail, address book, and integration with Microsoft Outlook. Additionally, it comes with a FollowMe feature that forwards calls to other phone numbers when a person is offline.
The MagicJack was created by Daniel Borislow and Donald Burns, who run a company called YMax. The competitive local exchange carrier operates a phone network in the United States as an alternative to incumbent telecom carriers.
Borislow, the founder of YMax, invented the MagicJack and said the secret sauce is the company's proprietary system-on-a-chip and millions of lines of software code.
"A major differentiator is that the MagicJack is hugely portable. You can take it with you overseas, plug it in, and make calls back to the U.S. for free," said Burns, YMax's CEO, in an interview.
The calls are made over the YMax Voice network, which currently reaches 75% of the U.S. population. The network is expected to reach more than 90% of the population in phase two of the launch later this year, Burns said.
The MagicJack costs $39.95, which includes a year's subscription to YMax's phone service, a personal phone number, and various features including 911 service and voice mail. The company promises that customers won't be charged additional monthly fees.
"This is direction in which phone services are headed because people are using computers more and more as the communications hub. They're storing their music, media, and business contacts on their computers," said Burns. "It takes 45 seconds to start making calls after you plug the MagicJack into a computer's USB port."