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Visual Voicemail a Cure For iPhone Envy?

It's hardly the top reason well-heeled consumers are clamoring for the iPhone, but its voice mail management is one of the device's cooler features. Instead of having to listen sequentially to voice mail messages, you can pick and choose which voice mail message to listen to. Now other cell phone makers are going to be able to offer a similar feature and a few other extras the iPhone doesn't offer.

Acision has announced the launch of Visual Voicemail, a fully integrated, easy-to-use graphical multimedia interface it said dramatically improves the mobile voicemail experience. Developed in partnership with Action Engine, Visual Voicemail is designed to let operators offer simplified and enhanced viewing, playback and management of voicemail.

visual voicemail
A message with a face.
Source: Acision

Acision said its solution offers an evolutionary path to other advanced messaging services through the company's convergence platform.

Visual Voicemail is slated to be available on a variety of Java, BREW and Windows Mobile handsets (at press time, the company could not provide a timetable for likely release). There are also a few wrinkles to Visual Voicemail not available on the iPhone including the ability to forward voicemail text alerts to any e-mail address, deletion of individual messages and support for "confidential" and "priority" flags on voicemail messages. Another potential differentiator (for better or worse depending on your viewpoint) is the ability to insert advertising in messages.

"Wireless consumers are hungry for a better voicemail experience, one that is easier to manage and more versatile than current navigation systems," said Wayne Irwin, president of Acision, the Americas, in a statement. "With Acision’s Visual Voicemail, operators will be able to offer their customers an experience more closely aligned with their messaging expectations. Our partnership with Action Engine allows us to meet the growing demand for an intuitive graphical voicemail option."

Analyst Roger Kay said the iPhone has definitely raised the bar and had an impact on consumer expectations of what features a mobile phone should have, but warns Acision has bigger competitors to worry about. "Microsoft and Cisco are in a lovefest judging by the latest meeting of their two CEOs," said Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

"In the grand scheme of things, their vision of Unified Communications is more comprehensive than what these guys (Acision and Action Engine) can deliver," Kay told internetnews.com. "They do appear to be out front with some new functionality and maybe they can gain traction with that. But in the long run, the infrastructure of Microsoft and Cisco is a lot to compete with."

Still, Acision is not without resources and claims more than 50 percent of global messaging traffic is generated through its platforms. The company, which provides services for network operators, service providers and broadband operators, was established in June with more than 300 clients serving over one billion customers worldwide. Atlantic Bridge Ventures and Access Industries led a consortium that formed Acision following the purchase of LogicaCMG's Telecoms Products business for $525 million. The company employs approximately 1,700 people in 22 countries across six continents.