8x8 Expands Distribution At Retail, e-Tail

By Greg Scoblete On Dec 4 2006 - 8:00am

VoIP provider 8x8 broadened distribution for its residential and small-business services last month, placing its Virtual Office in Office Depot, unveiling a line of Systemax PCs preloaded with its soft-phone software and linking with the broadband comparison site Broadband National.

Office Depot will gain exclusive rights to stock and display 8x8's Virtual Office in its retail locations starting this month. CompUSA also sells Virtual Office but only through its business service division — it does not stock the actual product on store shelves.

Virtual Office includes a "business class" corded phone with related services for $79.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate. Service costs $39.99 a month and includes PBX functionality, auto attendants, conference bridges, extension-to-extension dialing, business-class voicemail and ring groups alongside unlimited local and long-distance calling in the United States and Canada.

While the market for residential VoIP services at retail has been disappointing, "we think VoIP is a good small-business solution," said John Lostroscio, Office Depot technology merchandising VP.

8x8 has over 5,000 subscribers in its Virtual Office network, catering to small businesses with three to 250 employees.

PC maker Systemax will offer three "VoIP PCs" preloaded with 8x8's Packet8 Softalk VoIP software and an analog-phone port for connecting an ordinary home phone to the PC.

The PCs will be sold through TigerDirect.com and will include three models in the Venture line: H352V, HU H531V and the HU B531V. The PCs will cost $299, $499 and $599, respectively, after a $50 mail-in rebate valid through the end of the year.

The soft-phone software can also dial Packet8 videophones when used in conjunction with a Web camera.

Softalk supports outbound calling to landline phones, voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, E-911 and other features for $5.99 per month and a one-time activation fee of $9.99. A premium service offers 500 minutes of outgoing and incoming minutes on calls throughout the United States and Canada.

In September, 8x8 added a business version of the program, called Softalk Office, which can be used in conjunction with Virtual Office. The program, pitched at mobile executives, gives Virtual Office subscribers access to all of the business-class calling features from a PC interface. It supports six-way videoconferencing, extension dialing, access from an auto attendant, conference bridging, E911, call transfer, call record, virtual and toll-free dialing, voicemail-to-e-mail and more.

Softalk Office costs $9.99 per month and includes 200 minutes of calling in the United States and Canada and 3.5 cents a minute thereafter.

8x8 also initiated a marketing promotion with Broadband National, a comparison-shopping Web site for broadband and related digital services. Effectively immediately, Broadband National is offering its residential and business customers 8x8's residential and Virtual Office products.

As part of the deal, 8x8 will refer customers who need broadband to complete their VoIP installation to Broadband National's Web site or call centers.

Broadband National currently offers VoIP service from SunRocket, Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

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