What's the end game for Yahoo!'s just announced new PC-to-phone VoIP services?
It's not as much a strike against Skype as it is against...
I'll tell you, but first, some background would be useful.
Ever since Yahoo! acquired softphone developer and service provider Dialpad, we've suspected for some time now that Yahoo! has been planning fee-based, PC-to-phone VoIP service.
Now, as my colleague Elinor Mills writes, these suspicions have been confirmed. The two new services, Phone Out and Phone In, will work with Yahoo! Messenger with Voice.
Phone Out will have introductory price points that appear to be somewhat lower than even obvious template model SkypeOut. We're talking a penny a minute within and to the U.S. and less than two cents a minute for international calls to more than 30 nations.
And yes, there are the pre-paid increment options of $10 or $25 a year.
Phone In will enable PC users to receive calls from traditional phones for the price of $2.99 a month or $29.90 a year.
OK, so what do I make of all this?
Softphone providers are fighting each other over price point, but I don't think the average user cares about whether a call is 1.7 cents a minute or 2 cents a minute. What matters to them is quality of service. How is the connection?
If Phone Out and Phone In can deliver acceptable calling quality, the next question is, who are they competing against?
One thing about Yahoo!- they've built their business based on a portal-centric conglomeration of services. So by adding PC to phone service, Yahoo! is building its own set of bundled service offerings- Internet access (via SBC); video and Internet telephony.
That brings to mind triple-play Internet access, video and Internet telephony offerings already on the market or planned from the likes of Time-Warner Cable, Comcast, Verizon and Yahoo!s Internet access partner SBC/AT&T.
Given that the new SBC/AT&T will also have the current Cingular Wireless service under its wing, I wouldn't be surprised if what shakes out is an expansion of the SBC-Yahoo! partnership to include cellular service.
Via direct services and alliances, Yahoo! is positioning themselves as both an ally and a competitor to existing and forming quadruple-play behemoths.
Oh, one more thing. If I'm Vonage, I have to be worried. I currently have a new powerhouse competitor on the low price end, at the same time I am fighting multi-alliance quadruple-play service providers on my own turf.