Now comes the time to analyze why AOL wants to do this. I can think of two meta reasons:
One big honkin' reason is that its IM rivals are quickly moving toward softphone within IM- Google with Google Talk, Yahoo! as part of its Dialpad technology acqusition; Microsoft as part of its Teleo purchase.
In light of such fierce competition, AOL simply can't afford to let its instant messaging technology feature set fall behind.
Here's another reason:
As AOL's legacy dial-up subscriber base upgrades to broadband, they are flocking to cable and DSL broadband providers. How to stem this giant sucking sound of churning out subs? Offer them goodies, such as video VoIP.
So how does AOL push such a service?
I see a pricing model backed up with a marketing plan that would charge existing AIM users who are non-subscribers to sign up for this extra service on a monthly sub. Given AOL's long history in offering free hours to new accounts, I'd bet that the first 30 or 60 days of video VoIP via AIM as a promotional giveaway.
At the same time, I could see video VoIP in the AIM container as a subscriber-retention device for existing AOL subscribers. So how do you retain subscribers? Offer existing subscribers cool new features to stick around. So I can see AOL either giving videoVoIP in AIM away to existing AOL subscribers, or maybe introducing it to existing subscribers for a few extra bux a month as part of a newly tiered pricing plan.
Would video VoIP-enabled IM cause you to stick with AIM and upgrade - as opposed to jumping ship? Let's TalkBack and get a discussion going here.