Twilio buys video apps software; unveils call-quality features

September 20, 2016 4:40 AM EDT

A banner for communications software provider Twilio Inc., hangs on the facade of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to celebrate the company's IPO in New York City, U.S., June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid


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By Eric Auchard

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Twilio Inc. isn't a name many consumers will recognize, even though it has recently led a modest revival in the U.S. market for technology initial public offerings by nearly quadrupling in value since its stock market debut in June.

The software maker is making a small acquisition on Tuesday that promises to allow customers ranging from big consumer messaging apps to telecom operators and retailers to reach billions of consumers with new video messaging features such as augmented reality, without the hassle of downloading plug-ins.

Twilio doesn't have customers in the usual sense. Instead, it has signed up more than a million developers who use its software to build voice, video or text messaging features into apps, including WhatsApp, Uber and Airbnb. It makes money when usage takes off, charging fractions of a cent per user.

The cloud-based communications supplier aims to sustain its lead in a market it pioneered eight years ago, one now teeming with hundreds of rival start-ups and independent software projects, as well as giants Cisco and Avaya Inc.

Twilio said it has agreed to acquire a team of ten Madrid-based developers and proprietary technologies they built for large group communications via video conferencing, file transfer, chat or desktop sharing and which don't require users to first download plug-ins.

The team, which was backed by European Commission funding, is behind the Kurento Open Source Project, which has become popular among multimedia developers.

"What Kurento does for Twilio is that this will be the basis of all of our next-generation, cloud-based media services," said Jeff Lawson, Twilio’s founder and chief executive, in a phone interview.

Twilio said the proprietary tools the team built will be integrated into its programmable video service in coming months for use by large-scale consumer video applications and big corporate customers.

Businesses such as telecom operators and top retailers use Twilio software to create customized messaging apps with voice or video calling to market or provide customer service to their users.

The company also plans to develop video applications such as augmented reality and computer vision, which allow for facial recognition, object detection and gesture tracking, based on the work of the team behind Kurento.

Separately, San Francisco-based Twilio will introduce a product that lets developers monitor voice messaging apps for consistent call quality so they can identify problems such as network congestion, poor WiFi connections or problems with a user's own device.

Called "Voice Insights", it allows audio applications to warn users that the have "poor network coverage" or "you are on mute” or that they need to “check headset connection".

(Story corrects to read "teeming", paragraph 4.)

(Editing by Louise Heavens)



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