Social, mobile and free.How’s that for a hook?

Or does Work, Life, Simplified sound even better?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to choose, they all apply to Hookflash, a new iPad app that helps professionals communicate with their peers and colleagues via instant High Definition video calls, voice and text messages anywhere on the planet for free.

“It’s the business phone for the 21st century,” says Trent Johnsen, the company’s founder and CEO.

And Hookflash has something to offer that would-be competitors like Skype and other enterprise VoIP services don’t -- it’s social.

The iPad app integrates with LinkedIn’s 160 million member professional network and allows users to connect with their first degree LinkedIn connections, iPad to iPad, by doing nothing more than tapping their screens. Not only that, but by bringing in LinkedIn’s user profiles and activity streams, Hookflash gives users the information they need to gain real time insight into the other party before and during their “calls.”


Hookflash in action

The beauty of Hookflash is that it’s truly plug ’n’ play. You download the app, enter your LinkedIn credentials and like magic it’s ready to go. Your LinkedIn directory is displayed on your iPad screen, all you have to do is tap on a name and,if they choose to accept your call, you’re connected, face to face, voice to voice, or via text, whichever you pick. If the intended party is not available, they’ll get a push notification that takes them into the app.

What’s the Catch?

There isn’t one, as far as we could tell, unless it’s the fact that the other party has to have the Hookflash app too. But even then, Hookflash makes it easy for you to invite them to use it: the invite is pre-written and gets delivered via LinkedIn mail.

Perhaps it’s the technology that you don’t see or experience that makes Hookflash really special. It leverages a relatively rare and hard to write P2P protocol called Open Peer that the company wrote in house. Not only that, but this same technology will eventually enable file sharing which business users no doubt will want. In time they’ll be able to share documents and other files without needing to email or login to anything else.

The idea is to provide users with a truly seamless experience, says Johnsen. “There’s no server, no telephone, no infrastructure required,” he adds.

Learning Opportunities

Future Ambitions

Hookflash’s hope is that the days of walking into your office, looking up a number, punching it into a phone and waiting for someone to answer will soon be gone.

“It’s so old fashioned,” says Johnsen, especially as compared to tapping a screen and gaining a rich video experience.

And though Johnsen doesn’t specifically point it out, the fact that LinkedIn selected Hookflash to be the first communications app to build upon its social graph says a lot. It is, after all, probably the most successful social platform out there. It’s also worth noting that the professional network employs some of the world’s best technologists and for Hookflash to have passed their scrutiny, and even won their public endorsement, bodes well for their future.

While at this point Hookflash’s goal is to gain users (it was released to the public only one week ago), its plans for the immediate future are already big. In the near term, we’re likely to see an iPhone app and an Android app, as well as a host of calendaring, scheduling and productivity tools. After that, maybe video conferencing and WebEx type services.

“We could have gone the conferencing route from the start,” says Johnsen, but he explains that initially they wanted the service to be more widely used among business users, like a business phone.

This is a smart move because it taps LinkedIn’s large market of professionals who have already indicated that they want to connect with each other and it gives them an easy, more personal, cool way to do so. “Let’s use Hookflash,” might be the word on the grapevine.

If Hookflash is able to win wide adoption among this base of individuals in an era where BYOD rules, the enterprise will be its for the taking.