I got a very interesting email from Microsoft this evening, inviting me to try out the Windows Live Messenger Beta. I’m not a particularly big fan of instant message clients, generally, as I find IMing to be a massive time-sink and generally avoid it, but I was intrigued by the two new features highlighted in the message:
- Use Windows Live Call to sign-up for MCI Web Calling to get incredibly low rates on calls to phones across the country or around the world
- Drop documents into special folders that you and your contact can access even when one of you is off-line
In terms of my earlier comment about Insular, Proprietary VOIP Solutions it’s a very interesting example of one of Microsoft’s key strategies:
If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em or partner with ’em.
Now, hmmm, who are they worried about when they add a VOIP capability to their IM client?
Google. Of course. Whether this was something in the works for a year or two or whether it’s something that was grafted into the product in the last week, it’s clear to me that Google’s Google Talk with its built-in (yes, Om, proprietary) VOIP telephony capabilities suddenly has become the IM solution to beat.
Of course, Yahoo got there first, but Yahoo seems to be far behind in the mindshare race, even if they continue to innovate with their own software and “Web 2.0″ solutions.
According to Microsoft’s Press Release on the partnership, the intent is to be able to also connect via voice with anyone who has a telephone, not just other Windows Live Messenger users:
“Microsoft Corp. and MCI Inc. today announced a global, multiyear partnership to provide software and services that enable customers to place calls from a personal computer to virtually any phone. The solution, MCI Web Calling for Windows Live Call, will be available through Windows Live Messenger, the upcoming successor to MSN Messenger, which has more than 185 million active accounts around the world. The solution combines Windows Live software, advanced voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) capabilities and the strengths of MCI�s expansive global network to give consumers an easy-to-use, convenient and cost-effective way to stay connected.”
Cool partnership, actually. Microsoft instantly gets a credible VOIP solution and MCI remains relevant in the world of “Telephony 2.0″, where Skype and Vonage seem to be the new darlings of the twisted-pair set.
Am I going to sign up for the beta? You bet. And if you’d like, send me your phone number and as I can squeeze out time, I’ll give you an “IM jingle” and you too can hear what kind of quality the program will offer. At least, when my computer is running and when I feel like paying per-minute for the calls: “rates starting at $.023 per minute to the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Western Europe during the beta testing period.”
And Robert, perhaps we should have a VOIP chat too, since I bet you’re already running this new software, somehow.