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VoIP Choices Ringing Off The Hook

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-05-09

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Skype, Microsoft, AIM, Yahoo, Lycos, all of those companies have or will have options for doing phone calls from the computer; at stake is the biggest prize of all - keeping a person using a given provider's other services.

Just focusing on VoIP services distributed by some of the big online players misses the real point of their acquisition or debut in the first place. EBay did not buy Skype for $2.6 billion with potential additional bonuses of $1.5 billion just for the sake of spending cash.

Ideally, a Skype and eBay user (who could also be a PayPal user) will be more inclined to use services under eBay's corporate umbrella. Loyalty pays in real dollars and cents, with every auction and purchase of Skype Out minutes, and ringtone buys as well.

Microsoft announced the public beta of its Windows Live Messenger. That service comes complete with the ability to buy minutes for use with the Verizon Web Call service.

Live Messenger has a lot of company in the Windows Live family, like the recently launched Live Expo. Microsoft competes with eBay, Google, Craigslist, and Yahoo Auctions with Live Expo, and makes it easier for buyers to reach sellers with VoIP as an option along with email and text chat.

Yahoo Messenger with Voice does free PC to PC calls too, and has low per-minute charges for calls to landline or mobile phones. With Yahoo, brand advertising figures very prominently in monetizing their services. Keeping users around for more display ad impressions always helps.

In about a week, AOL should launch its AIM Phoneline service. Numerous media outlets have discussed the leaked information from AOL, including the availability of a free phone number for inbound calls.

There will be complementary social media services from AIM to go along with Phoneline. AIM Pages figures to be AOL's answer to MySpace. AIM users will have a personal page, where they can add content and see that added by others.

Lycos, once a prominent name online in the pre-Google era, does not want to be overlooked in VoIP. Like AOL, Lycos Phone offer free inbound calls along with a free US phone number.

Unlike other services, Lycos built its service to offer multimedia content bundled with the software. It also includes search, as does Yahoo on the Messenger with Voice platform. Lycos also provides free fax and voicemail services.

Every one of those services benefits when it can retain users within a particular network. Over time the provider gains more opportunities to sell premium and upgraded services, or deliver more advertising to people.

The trick today will be to figure out who may do the best job of this. With the massive userbases of AIM and Yahoo, they may be the front runners. Skype has a lot of registered users, but many may be mostly inactive on the service.

Microsoft and Lycos have audiences to rebuild. We expect to see Microsoft throw a lot of money at publicizing its Live services like Messenger. That would make a big difference in the competition for people's ears.

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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