Switched On: Cap’n magicJack’s port of call

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Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:

Inventions and incentives have fueled the those using voice over IP to battle the imposing inertia of landline incumbents, as well as the cellphone’s continued cannibalization of long distance. The list of disruptive newcomers is long: cable companies offer adapter boxes for analog phones; a variety of companies have extended Skype via solutions that are both tethered to the PC and that operate over WiFi networks; and recently, Ooma (which will be discussed more in a future column) has made the tempting offer of free domestic long distance for life with the purchase of its $400 Ooma hub, which delivers additional benefits such as web-based voicemail and the functionality of a second line without a second phone number.

Into this crowded field has jumped magicJack, the brainchild of Dan Barislow, who developed the “10-10-xxx” phone numbers that enabled consumers to bypass their long-distance carrier more than a decade before the first Skype icon emitted its ascending loading tone. About the size of a double-wide USB flash drive, magicJack has a standard phone jack on its back that allows you to plug in any standard touch-tone telephone handset from a leading-edge DECT phone to an old princess design.

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