I'd bet you they are.
Let me articulate the spin, and differentiate it from what I believe is really going on.
Earlier this month, Yahoo! Messenger released a major upgrade with capabilities that to me, seem an awful lot like a major move toward the IP Telephony services space.
Now, we are hearing conflicting signals about just wassup with this upgrade. Not long after the debut of the new Yahoo! Messenger, Piper Jaffray analyst Safa Raschtchy wrote a research note that forecasted Yahoo! would introduce a two-tier VoIP service in the very near future. The service, Raschtchy predicted, would have an ad-supported tier and a fee-based tier.
Now, Yahoo! seems to be doing everything it can to dampen such speculation.
"The rumor from the financial analyst is not true," Terrell Karlsten, a Yahoo spokeswoman, told internetnews.com's Jim Wagner the other day.
I think the issue here is that Yahoo! is indeed planning something, but wants to control the time and place they announce it. In doing so, they are only playing the marcom game the way they have always played it.
But why am I still convinced something more is up than Yahoo! officially is admitting?
I even blogged about it. I wrote that Yahoo! Messenger With Voice has upgraded IP phone capability- far more extensive than the hitch-a-ride over IM functionality characteristic of this and other IM programs.
Then, I explained this new capability comes in two flavors. Both are accessed via the newly expanded Actions tab:
Call Computer lets you, well, call other PCs similarly equipped with Yahoo! Messenger.
Place A Net2Phone Call brings up a Call Center softphone. Dialing rates range are 2 cents a minute in the U.S. and 3.9 cents a minute in Canada. Foreign per-minute rates are generally slightly higher than some other softphone services.
I say again here what I said in my original post. Given that Yahoo! announced its purchase of softphone provider DialPad two months ago, I have to wonder if or when Yahoo! Messenger With Voice's existing Net2Phone softphone partnership and UI will be replaced with a DialPad interface.
And as I type this on a Friday night, I'd be willing to bet ya that the coffee is hot in Yahoo's research labs.