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Reflections on APEX Voice Communications' 20th Anniversary

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March 10, 2009

Reflections on APEX Voice Communications' 20th Anniversary

By Richard Grigonis, Executive Editor, IP Communications Group

Of all the companies I’ve watched grow up in the computer telephony era (of the late 1980s through the 1990s) and evolve into the contemporary world of IP Communications, one of my favorites has been APEX Voice Communications. It pretty much exemplifies how a couple of savvy guys, Ben Levy and Elhum Vahdat, avoided accepting big VC money, rolled up their shirtsleeves and founded one of the most innovative companies of that era (and this one, for that matter). Founded in San Francisco, California, in 1989 APEX pioneered the concept of open, standards- based IVR platforms with an integrated service creation environment, practically eliminating the need to write low-level code when developing enhanced services.

Right at the beginning, APEX's interactive voice-processing software (OmniVox) was touted as having voice applications generator with a menu interface, system management utilities, voice file creation with variable recording and playback levels, voice file editor, dialed number identification service (DNIS), direct inward dial (DID), conditional branching, call counts reporting, call transfer and outdialing, pin generation and verification, hooking of "C" routines to the applications generator, "C" language development tools, automatic flow-charting, script builder documentation tool, recording of customer information, voice mail and messaging, remote update and maintenance. Additional features included T-1/E4 protocols, ISDN and ANI - automatic number identification.
APEX appeared at the Telecom Developers '93 trade show, which the following year became the famed Computer Telephony Conference and Exposition under the unerring hand of telecom pundit and deal-marker extraordinaire, Harry Newton.
Amusingly, at 5:31 p.m. on Friday April 30, 1993, just before Telecom Developers ’93 opened on May 4, 1993 (the same show where Microsoft debuted the beginnings of “Windows Telephony” or TAPI that had begun at Intel (News - Alert)), TELECONNECT magazine (under Newton’s wry orders) sent faxes to all Interactive Voice Response (IVR) application-generator exhibitors, demanding that they prove their abilities by creating a 777-FILM type of movie-locator IVR service and have it running by the time the show opened. As it turned out, this was just too many hoops to jump through for nearly all of these companies, since all of them were getting ready for the show. Finally, Harry set up an official “Shootout” at the show, a competitive event, with each of the companies getting up to demonstrate what they could do.
APEX Voice Communications (News - Alert) was there with OmniVox, as were nine other companies, nearly all of which have now vanished in the mists of time (not to mention the mergers and acquisitions mania of the 1990s). Indeed, APEX was one of the few vendors that made the transition to IP gracefully, despite the fact that they were producing advanced multi-service platforms for enhanced services and real-time billing solutions to telecom carriers, service providers, developers and enterprises. Their billing system, for example, was never based just on minutes, but could also function as a ‘unit-based’ billing system that worked with packet information.
Years later, I found myself doing an article on prepaid call technology, Apex Voice had a versatile prepaid platform, and they also ran some actual services on one of their servers. Since my nickname in this industry has been “Zippy” for many years, at some point we thought it would be fund to distribute a working pre-paid phone “Zipcard” (with my photo on it, wearing a fez, of all things) at one of the Computer Telephony Expos. Each card came loaded with $10 in phone calls. Amazingly, the card was a hit and APEX had difficulty shutting down the system because people kept trying to renew the cards! APEX joked that I should have invested heavily in the card and made it a legitimate prepaid business. (Ah, those missed opportunties!)
In any case, APEX pioneered the concept of open, standard's- based IVR platforms with an integrated service creation environment, practically eliminating the need to write low-level code when developing enhanced services. But APEX is still going strong, still innovating and keeping up with a rapidly-mutating and evolving telecom industry.
Co-founder Ben Levy, now President of APEX, says, "APEX's two decades of success is firmly built upon the strength of all its past and present employees, its product excellence and its unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction. Of course, many, many thanks go out to our global network of VARs, as well as our network operator, value added service provider and call center customers around the world who continue to rely on us as the foundation for their mission-critical and value-added voice and video enhanced services."
To help commemorate this important milestone, APEX has designed a 20th Anniversary logo, a symbol defining the company's two decades of success. In addition to announcing APEX's 20th anniversary, the primary purpose of this logo is to share with their customers and the industry at large, the three defining factors they identify as the secret to their success: Experience, Stability and Vision - without which reaching the 20-year milestone would have been very difficult, given the turbulent nature of telecom over the past decade.
APEX Voice Communications is now a global supplier of carrier-grade SIP Application Servers and Service Delivery Platforms for multi-media voice and video enhanced services to wireless and wireline network operators, value added service providers, and VARs. Their high-density, open standards-based OmniVox3D enables innovative, revenue-generating enhanced voice, video and presence-aware services to reach the market quickly, easily and cost-effectively. With over 15,000 installations across 95 countries, including more than 250 network operators and value-added service providers, APEX continues to be a leader in delivering SIP and converged telephony platforms.
Congratulations, Ben and Elhum!

Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC (News - Alert)�s IP Communications Group. To read more of Richard’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jessica Kostek

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