Hey, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and others: Dan Borislow, the man behind the magicJack thingy that will make cell phone calls free and perhaps cut into your profits, wants to offer you an olive branch. He said he has nothing against cell phone companies. In fact, he thinks you'll all be sharing the same water cooler someday.
"I envision that we'll be partners with a number of those carriers," he said to WalletPop on Friday. "I actually think it's a value proposition for their users."
Borislow introduced the new version of magicJack at the International Consumer Electronics Show last week in Las Vegas. His phone -- we presume it's linked to a magicJack -- is ringing off the hook. Besides potential repeat customers in the millions who bought the original magicJack for landlines, he's getting plenty of coverage from mainstream media for the cellphone-compatible model.
He figures no infomercial campaign will be necessary this time around. "Our deal appeared too compelling, too unbelievable," he said. "We needed the infomercial to explain what we were doing."
Apparently, the new business card-sized gizmo already has set the wireless world wobbly with anticipation for the product's release in about four months. It took Borislow's company, YMax of Palm Beach, Fla., six years to develop the chip, he said.
The magicJack will retail in the neighborhood of $40, and will be available at magicjack.com and at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Walgreens and other vendors, he said. You might have to wait in line. Borislow said he's going to first accommodate those who bought the original magicJack.
An Associated Press story made much ado about magicJack occupying the same radiowaves that cell phone companies pay billions for, but Borislow told WalletPop, "You're allowed to use these frequencies within your home or small business, as long as it doesn't interfere with any carrier," he said.
A Sprint spokesman told WalletPop that the magicJack was not compatible with the cell company's CDMA network technology, so there would be no interference. As for any potential legal infringement, the company couldn't respond because all of the Sprint executives were in Vegas at the same convention as magicJack, the spokesman said. WalletPop reached out to other cellular outfits but didn't receive comment before publication.
The new magicJack is compatible with T-Mobile, Orange, AT&T and other phones that operate on the GSM standard, said Borislow, who once ran a company that partnered with AOL (WalletPop's owner) to sell long distance to AOL users. The magicJack will also work with certain smartphones from Sprint and Verizon, he added.
For the gadget-squeamish, we'll try to keep the operating manual simple: You register your cell phone number one time with magicJack. You plug the magicJack into the USB terminal on your computer. Then you just have to pass within eight feet of the magicJack with your cell phone, and that activates the free transmission waves. You can then use the phone anywhere in your house. Purchase of a MagicJack entitles you to a year of free calls.
MagicJack's best application, Borislow said, is that it improves problematic cell phone reception. (If you live in a postwar Brooklyn co-op, you know what we mean.) The cell phone giants have developed similar "femtocell" technology, but at a much greater cost to the consumer. Verizon was launching such a frequency-enhancing device this month for $249.99, according to engadget.com.
The magicJack also enables users to call from foreign countries for nearly free. The same principle applies: Just walk within eight feet of the USB-connected device in your hotel room, and you're yapping stateside at an estimated 95% less cost on your mobile, Borislow estimated.
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