There's a quiet revolution underway as the old 4 kHz narrowband phone system is being disrupted by a combination of cell phones and Internet phones with advanced features and HD Voice. By this time, a majority of all fixed phone lines in the US use VoIP.

With hundreds of proprietary digital phones and PBX systems, Windows TAPI (Telephone Application Programming Interface) has traditionally dominated CTI by providing a common API that phone and PBX vendors could write to. In response, European standards organizations developed CSTA (Computer-Supported Telecommunications Applications) as a model for standardizing the computer interface to PBX systems. CSTA has also been extended to SIP phones in the form of uaCSTA (User Agent CSTA), but US adoption has been slow. Another response to the complexity of proprietary phone systems is the emergence of Asterisk, a powerful, free, open source PBX that works with phones from several major manufacturers. No other PBX works with as wide a selection of phones, and this has driven the adoption of SIP based VoIP as the industry standard.

By the 1990s, the PC was king. More software leading to ever more investment made it difficult for any platform that wasn't a PC to compete on features and price. As the global Internet emerged, there was leverage in making the phone just another application that ran on the PC. Multiple soft-phones and audio/video communication platforms were born by solving the problem of streaming high quality audio/video across the Internet to PCs (like Skype, iChat AV, and Magic Jack). Telepresence was marketed as a way to reduce the cost of business travel. Some 10 years later, Apple transformed the cell phone industry by making the phone just another app that ran on a powerful handheld computer with a breakthrough user interface.

The Internet with its open standards and vastly superior content has loosened the grip of the PC. One effect has been the shift toward cloud computing. Telephone answering machines and PBX have become applications that run on the server. It is no longer necessary for small business owners to deal with the complexity and expense of managing their own phone system. Companies like RingCentral,, and have emerged to provide business PBX phone service via the Internet for a low monthly fee.

While the iPhone is a brilliant expression of “Mac” CTI, building OS X (iOS) into a handheld phone, it is not a complete CTI solution. There's still a need for simple, reliable, and cost effective home and office phones that can be tied in with desktop class CRM applications. Phone Amego is positioned to serve this market.

Despite all the changes in telephone technology, people still need to make and receive phone calls while juggling information from multiple sources.

Many people will use more than one kind of phone during an extended transition period (i.e. cell phone, SIP phone, Skype, landline, etc). Modular (RJ-11) telephone jacks are being replaced by SIP and HTTP over Ethernet. Legacy narrowband voice will gradually give way to HD voice as the business standard.

Phone Amego allows you to leverage the power of CTI with the simplicity of the Mac and modular phones (including cell phones and soft-phones).

Coincidentally, most Mac soft-phones are weak at allowing
basic telephone monitoring and control. They seem more focussed on reproducing the telephone experience or were ported from Windows. Even the iPhone deliberately firewalls the phone app from other software running on the mobile cellular platform. Fortunately, the Bluetooth channel offers more control than is available to native iOS applications.

Phone Amego's integration with web based services, SIP phones, soft-phones, iPhone, iOS, landlines, and support for native CRM offers ground breaking integration that wasn't possible only a few years ago. As more businesses adopt iOS and consider using Macs, Phone Amego is positioned to become central to Mac CTI solutions.

CTI Defined
  • Telephone Control - Monitoring and controlling features of a telephone set.
  • Call Control - Monitoring and directing calls in a telephone system.
  • Media Binding - Relating other communication/collaboration functions to calls in a telephone system (messaging, presence, sharing, CRM, and video).
Related links:
Choosing a SIP Phone for Mac CTI
Choosing a VoIP Service Provider for Mac CTI
US Telecom Industry from 2010 to 2015
The End of the Public Phone Network - IEEE Spectrum
The Mac-to-Phone Integration Challenge

  1. Q: What about CTI in the cloud?[+]
    A: The same factors that are pushing PBX service to the cloud have inspired some companies to offer CTI in the cloud. for example offers PBX+ which includes CTI features. As the developer of Phone Amego, I was intrigued to see the "Call Widget" which allows you to see who's calling, transfer calls between employees, leave notes for calls, and integrate with web based CRM systems like SalesForce starting at $99 per month (bundled with 3000 minutes or higher).

    Phone Amego combined with or offers similar capability but with two key advantages:

    (1) Consumer friendly pricing. Phone Amego is under $50/seat (one time). is competitive with Vonage.

    (2) Phone Amego works with native applications Mac users are already familiar with including Apple's Address Book, iCal, and Mail (which integrate easily with iPhone and iPad). The biggest cost of moving to a CRM is time spent learning a new system and entering your data. Native apps lower the barrier to entry.

    The market is still deciding where software-as-a-service makes the most sense. Google is pushing an Apps in the cloud model (Google Apps), whereas Apple favors a native Apps with data in the cloud model (iCloud). Native apps offer a richer experience and deeper integration as illustrated by the examples below:

    (1) Phone Amego's click-to-dial feature isn't limited to your on-line address book. You can click-to-dial almost any number that appears on your screen and can also send touch-tones to access other services.

    (2) Outgoing call setup is faster because you can dial directly from your phone instead of ringing your phone first, and then ringing the remote party.

    (3) Phone Amego's caller ID isn't limited to reverse lookup or opening a CRM page. It integrates with native apps including iCal and Daylite. Other options include speak caller ID, growl notification, multi-line Caller ID, and native scripting (to pause iTunes for example).

    The PBX user experience has always been distributed between the users phone and PBX equipment in a wiring closet. Moving the PBX out of the closet and into the cloud offers greater flexibility and lower cost.

    In contrast, moving CTI to the cloud limits integration beyond the web browser and thus flexibility to leverage local software and devices.

    The original Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution focussed on managing and recording interaction with customers and any communication that occurred. As CRM systems kept piling on features and complexity, high cost and low usability was often the result. Phone Amego takes a back to basics approach by providing a built-in lightweight CRM that integrates with more powerful tools as needed.

    For another perspective, see
    Shell Apps and Silver Bullets.
Three Myths about Mac CTI
  1. CTI isn't applicable to average Mac users[+]
    The iPhone (which integrates a phone and computer) obviously challenges this assumption along with the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and SOHO (Small Office Home Office) trend.

    With increased focus on customer relationships, every employee with a telephone is an interface to the organization's customers, partners, and the public at large.
  2. The Mac is a 2nd class citizen when it comes to CTI[+]
    The Internet with its open standards and vastly superior content has loosened the grip of the PC allowing other solutions to emerge including Asterisk and PBX in the cloud.

    The smart phone revolution and industry standard SIP based VoIP have focussed much of the market on a small range of products that can be supported.
  3. CTI products aren't available for the Mac[+]
    There have been many CTI products for the Mac, but those addressing PSTN dialers, displays, or telephone answering machines are at or near their end-of-life. A new generation of CTI products is needed to embrace mobile, VoIP, and cloud technology. Phone Amego falls in this category.