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Sonix-founder Jones resurfaces on Web

Serial entrepreneur? Isn’t that what business people have for breakfast?

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Bob Jones, the man who gave Sonix Communications to the world, has set up a company which plans to make the Internet as easy to use as the humble telephone. Equiinet has been backed with a £5 million venture capital injection from Schroder Ventures, which has backed Jones when he set up Sonix in 1992 with £2.1 million. He sold Sonix in 1995 to 3Com for $70 million. Small wonder then, that Schroders was happy to help out again. Jones’ latest foray into the IT world has launched an Internet access box, the NetPilot – “a one-box solution that works for data in a very similar way to PABX,” the company literature says. The thinking behind Equiinet’s offering is that businesses need Internet access that is a straight-forward as using the telephone. The NetPilot logs Web use and monitors what staff are looking at, allowing much the same control as a company has over its telephone exchange. It does, however, fly in the face of the much-hyped voice-over IP technology. Voice and data are unlikely to converge in the near future because of inherent reliability issues, according to Equiinet. In a press statement, Equiinet says: “With voice communications, people expect high performance and their tolerance of failures or poor quality is low. While there is a lot of talk about data and voice convergence, Equiinet believes the risk of compromising the performance of telephony equipment means it is inappropriate – at least for now.” Jones does not dismiss voice-over IP altogether though. “I’m actually a big fan,” he said. “I just don’t believe that the technology is there yet and for many businesses it’s an approach that is just too radical at the moment.” Jones will be the chairman of Equiinet. He is also deputy chairman of Datatec, the South African IT giant. ®

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