TMCnet asked Michael Mullany, Chief Product Officer at RingCentral (News - Alert), to provide some perspective on the fax industry. RingCentral provides an online suite of on-demand communications tools for small businesses—including phone and fax.
TMCnet: How would you define “fax,” and how is that different (if indeed it is) from how the term might have been defined a year ago?
We see fax as a communications technology merging into voice and mobile communications. People continue to shift to fax via email, and fax machines themselves are becoming just one of the functions of all-in-one printer/fax/scanner devices. The standalone fax machine is truly a thing of the past.
TMCnet: What were some of the 2007 highlights for RingCentral?
In September 2007, Sequoia Capital (News - Alert) and Khosla Ventures completed a financing round of $12 million with RingCentral. Our customer acquisition surpassed 45,000 small businesses. The paying customer base has more than doubled in the past year.
On October 9, 2007, RingCentral introduced DigitalLine™, a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP
) service that adds the convenience and cost savings of Internet-based telephony to its virtual phone system. With DigitalLine, RingCentral delivers a complete hosted PBX
solution for small businesses; customers can use a mix of traditional land line, mobile and VoIP communications to place and receive calls.
Unlike other VoIP services, RingCentral DigitalLine does not require small businesses to rely solely on VoIP. As part of every basic service plan, DigitalLine enables customers to receive calls over the Internet at no additional cost. Small businesses can experience the savings and convenience of RingCentral DigitalLine VoIP and determine if the service is a fit for them, risk free. Through a service upgrade, customers receive a complete phone service allowing them to both receive and place calls over the Internet using a softphone, IP
phone or traditional phone using an analog telephony adapter (ATA).
TMCnet: How do you place those highlights in the broader fax market?
I think the highlights outlined above speak to the continued erosion of the traditional device-based fax market in favor of Internet-based faxing.
TMCnet: If you had to pick one event or development that occurred during 2007 that had an impact on the fax market, what would it be?
There wasn't a single
event during the year; rather, the evolution of fax into a feature of unified communications (versus a standalone product) continued apace. If anything, the industry consolidation toward the end of the year is a sign of that migration.
TMCnet: In terms of technology, what changes did you see during 2007 for the fax market?
Wireless PC cards had an impact on the both the Internet fax market and fax usage during 2007, particularly in the real estate and appraisal industries. Agents who usually carry laptops in the field now can sign documents electronically and fax them to their clients. This is also true with other mobile professionals.
TMCnet: In terms of business practices, what changes did you see during 2007 for the fax market?
Fax remains a critical tool for small businesses. We are continuing to see its importance in a wide array of industries from real estate to online retail to professional services. Although “scan and email” is developing into a viable customer alternative, fax will continue to be a critical business tool.
TMCnet: Looking broadly at all the customer feedback RingCentral received during 2007, what trends do you see emerging?
RingCentral recently conducted a survey of its small business customers, examining trends in technology spending, holiday plans and more. The survey results underscore the importance of fax for small business communications. The majority of respondents, 57 percent, identified fax as important or very important for conducting business.
TMCnet: Looking ahead to 2008, what changes do you predict for the fax market—both in terms of technology and business practices?
The RingCentral customer survey revealed that the majority of small businesses (60 percent) will increase technology spending in 2008. More than a third of small businesses plan to spend on phone systems, smart-phones and Voice over IP (VoIP) technologies. Currently, 40 percent of survey participants use VoIP technology with an additional 38 percent planning to adopt VoIP technology in 2008.
Fax, phone and email will continue to be critical communication tools for small businesses, but they will also increase use of social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook (News - Alert). (Our prediction, based on survey results, is that use of social networking sites will increase from 28 percent, the 2007 figure, to 59 percent in 2008.)