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LinkedIn-powered Hookflash iPad app wants to replace your business phone

The traditional business phone line may be dying a slow death however Canadian start-up Hookflash is looking to speed up its demise. The Calgary-based company is launching an iPad app  by the same name Thursday that integrates LinkedIn’s directory, giving business users a free over-the-top alternative for voice, HD video and messaging. It’s the first communications app to build upon LinkedIn’s social graph and demonstrates some of the latent potential in the network of 160 million people.

The iPad app will be joined in the near future

The iPad app will be joined in the near future by an iPhone app and at the time a version for Android later this year. The service will as well get calendaring, scheduling and other productivity tools as it evolves. Multi-party video calling is as well on tap later this year, although the service is not meant to take on WebEx and other conferencing systems.

Co-founder Erik Lagerway told me that the goal is to become a then and there generation business phone, replacing traditional handsets from Cisco or Polycom. That should put Hookflash in competition with Skype and other enterprise VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services. He said the integration of LinkedIn is a smart way to utilize the network and appeal to business users, who increasingly turn to LinkedIn as their tool for staying in touch with business associates.

“Most of the people I communicate with from a business perspective are all on LinkedIn; it's my business Rolodex,” said Lagerway. “We want to make sure we use that directory after a fashion that's thoroughly seamless.”

IT managers might not embrace Hookflash out of the gate, admits Lagerway, nevertheless he said that as bring-your-own-device policies becomes the standard, it opens up opportunities for services like Hookflash in corporate settings. He said business users as well long for more communications choices, which are not as plentiful as consumer services.

Hookflash was supposed to hit the market before this spring, nevertheless got held up as the company completed the P2P innovation underlying the app. Hookflash has developed its own P2P protocol called Open Peer that will enable additional services, just as file sharing. Hookflash is opening up the spec to other developers who will be able to build services off the same research. Open Peer, for instance, could be dropped into customer relationship management or other enterprise applications, enabling simple communications and other uses.

Hookflash, which debuted at the DEMO conference last fall, has raised a little more than $2 million to date and is close to finishing up a $3 million round. The company is hoping to make money through a freemium model, with added premium features layered over the free service henceforth. There’s as well an possibility to license its P2P innovation to carriers and other communications companies, said Lagerway.

Intriguing service

I think Hookflash is an intriguing service, making LinkedIn potentially more powerful for business users. My LinkedIn directory is often an afterthought, however it’s however a big network of people that I continue to add to.  I might be tempted to utilize it more now with Hookflash. Airtime showed how a consumer video application can ride atop Facebook’s graph. Yet I think Hookflash could have more of an impact because there aren’t other communications services that are building on top of LinkedIn. I don’t think it’s ready to kill the traditional business phone overnight, nevertheless this could in effect be helpful for certain kinds of use cases in which business colleagues want to reach out to each other quickly and casually.

So if I call someone’s linkedin account do I leave a voicemail if they are not there? Can they transfer me to another person at their office? This sounds more like a Skype play using linkedin to populate their address book rather at the time an actual business phone system replacement.

More information: Gigaom
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