Cincinnati Bell brings texting to landlines via Casabi

If you ever wanted to get text messages on a landline, Cincinnati Bell has introduced the Smart Home Phone, a device allowing customers to send and receive SMS text messages. Is it crazy, retro, or brilliant? Frankly, we don't know. But can you say "Casabi?"

Cincinnati Bell's new service and device, which launched Monday, also allows customers to review a list of voicemail entries, play or delete entries in any order and read them as text messages (via a speech-to-text process delivered by the SpinVox service). Landline customers also can look up information in the Yellow Pages, and read news, weather and sports at the push of a button.

If you're wondering, the Smart Home Phone is a hybrid of Cincinnati Bell's ZoomTown high-speed internet and home phone services. Customers buying a bundle of landline and ZoomTown services can buy a cordless Smart Home Phone handset for $29.99; regular retail price is $129.99 (Ouch!). Smart Home Phone customers get three free months of text messaging and SpinVox service with the option to purchase unlimited texting for $9.99 per month (Ouch!) and unlimited SpinVox for ($5.99 per month) after the trial.

According to Cincinnati Bell, "additional integrated features" are in the pipeline, including access to wireless address books, white pages and email in the future. At the rates CB is floating for the text services now - dudes, IM is free! -- we're afraid to ask what additional features will cost.

Before you pass this off as a passing fad, AT&T has been poking around with the enabling backend Casabi technology for a couple of years. Casabi is a client/server technology that puts a SIP "web-light" client on the phone side that talks to back end servers that can deliver everything from today's weather to horoscopes to the latest sports scores. Embarq rolled out a variant of the technology - albeit without the SMS text messaging whistles - earlier this year.  

Cincinnati Bell tends to lean forward on technology, but on this one we're not prepared to bet against either AT&T and/or Verizon making similar Casabi-flavored announcements at CES 2009. We also wouldn't be surprised to see the bigger cable companies pull the pin on their own Casabi-esque announcements Real Soon Now.

For more:
- Cinc Bell announces text messaging for home phone

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