Twilio turns Google Chromebooks into call center phones

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Twilio, the API arms dealer to the world of communications, today announces Twilio CX, a packaged bundle of services and hardware that turns a Google Chromebook into an enterprise communications terminal.

Twilio CX is a subscription-based bundle: Each user gets 7,500 Twilio minutes per month (with more available at a starting price of $0.01 per inbound minute and $0.02 per outbound minute), plus a Plantronics headset, a Chromebook for Business (which includes service and support from Google), and the WebRTC-based Twilio Client, which turns the browser into a phone. That's handy, since Chromebooks are essentially nothing but a browser -- a "big, audacious, awesome browser," to hear Twilio CMO Lynda Smith tell it. Twilio will sell the bundle to partners at a cost of $75 per user per month; those partners may layer services and other software on top of the bundle and set their own final pricing for customers.

The first Twilio CX reseller is LiveOps, which provides call center solutions that integrate with the Salesforce platform, but Smith says there's nothing stopping future partners from selling Twilio CX as a remote support or simple enterprise communications platform. LiveOps will sell the bundle for $90 per user per month.

The real key value here, Smith says, is ease of setup: Sign in to the Chromebooks with a company-activated Google Apps account, plug in the headset, open the browser, and you're officially online and able to take calls. All the communication magic happens behind the scenes in Twilio's cloud. 

This is in stark contrast to unified communications solutions from telecommunications vendors like Cisco or Microsoft, which tend to be more complicated to set up and run. The simplicity and low cost of the Chromebook is quite a different approach than Cisco's latest device, a desktop communications terminal with high-end audio and video that will cost around $1,500, and is more in line with a cost-based approach toward customer service.

As a platform provider, Twilio doesn't set the pricing for end customers. But companies may prefer to buy this kind of function as a subscription service, especially for call centers with lots of temporary employees around holidays or big sales periods, for instance. 

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