With AOL TotalTalk, The IM-to-VoIP rite of passage continues: but the real battle lies ahead

This morning, AOL is announcing the impending availability of its new TotalTalk VoIP service.The service, which will debut October 4, will be embedded within AOL's new AIM Triton software, which will be posted for download in the next day or two.

This morning, AOL is announcing the impending availability of its new TotalTalk VoIP service.

The service, which will debut October 4, will be embedded within AOL's new AIM Triton software, which will be posted for download in the next day or two.

TotalTalk will have both a PC-to-PC softphone component, as well as a PC to phone service with rates that should be comparable to similar softphone-to-PSTN services such as SkypeOut.

To me, this is just another example of how IM offerings are expanding into full-fledged desktop VoIP. Skype, GoogleTalk, Microsoft (with Teleo) are others.

What happens next: a VoIP war between the: IM's turned VoIPs and router-modem VoIP services such as Vonage, CallVantage, etc. Branding, pricing, QoS and convenience will be key.

Within 2-3 years, handset-delivered VoIP will combine with Wi-Fi and Wi-Max networks to become the form factor of choice. The softphone providers will need alliances with these OEMs to remain competitive with the standard VoIP services. Now only coming to full flower as VoIP within IM, these services need to think ahead to the next battleground: the handset.