It appears certain that Microsoft is planning to make a move into VoIP-like services.
As my colleague John Borland reports, Microsoft will do this through purchase of an Internet calling start-up named Teleo, and subsequent integration of Teleo's PC to PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) capability into a new build of MSN Messenger expected by the end of this year.
Yet unlike Google, who is planning an eventual PC-to-PSTN capability for Google Talk through under-the-hood technology enablements with Sipphone's Gizmo Project and EarthLink's Vling, Microsoft is getting on the fast track by buying a company with such a solution.
Brooke Richardson, who is lead product manager for MSN's communication services division, tells Borland that after a "build or buy" discussion for this type of capability, an acquisition such as Teleo was "a good fit" for "rapid" deployment.
Emphasis on rapid. I would not be surprised to see Microsoft's PC-to-PSTN capability get rolled out before Google's does.
The meta trend we are seeing here is extension of the Instant Messaging platform to a VoIP platform with IM as just one integrated capability.
In other words, more of a Skype model.
"I think all (the IM companies) think that this is an idea whose time has finally come," Jupiter Research analyst Joe Laszlo tells Borland. "All of them realize that while voice chatting between IM users is a nice thing, what they really need to do longer term in order to make the platform more viable is make that connection out to the phone networks."
Yea, look out Skype AND Google. Here comes what some would call "The Beast of Redmond...."