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...Microsoft’s online portal MSN said Tuesday it has acquired Teleo, a San Francisco-based VoIP provider, for an undisclosed sum.
With Teleo, MSN gets a two-year-old privately held company that allows consumers to call cell phones and landlines from their computers. Redmond plans to integrate Teleo’s technology into future releases from MSN.
This isn't about cheap phone calls - this is about "click to call" - potentially rejuvinating the "callto://" tag.
The direction of this technology could have some interesting implications for the webmaster in the ways that users want to interact with a website, and their ability to choose to instead interact with a human by telephone, at the click of a mouse.
* - remember NetMeeting?
I don't know much about the technologies behind VoIP, or if voice chat on IM use the same (or dumbed down?) technology, but does anyone think maybe this new purchase by MS will be introduced into MSN Messenger, to provide better service than what they've got at the mo?
Or are they going to go big-time and try and rival Skype with a completely new system/program? I don't know, has MS ventured very far into Telecommunications before? Maybe this is going to be another area MS are eyeing up. Maybe I should stop asking stupid questions? Yes!
(Apologies - just thinking out loud!)
(Back to my random questions) Are we now seeing the good 'ole telephone making a triumphant return? I remember the days when a company gave out their address, their phone number, their fax number if they were REALLY technologically minded, and that was it. Then came the Net, and I get the impression the phone was pushed out of the limelight a tad...but are we now going to see, on a website, a list of contact details, including email address (which clicked loads up your email client and sends an email), a website (which clicked loads up the website) and a telephone number (which clicked automatically rings them up and from your speakers boom 'Good afternoon, how can I help you?').
That would be kinda cool.
Or are they going to go big-time and try and rival Skype with a completely new system/program?
I can certainly see them move into the telecoms arena (bear in mind it's an industry worth an annual $800bn - who wouldn't want even 0.1% market share?).
I think the impetus to move is more about protecting their existing position in relation to IM market share - MS would not want to lose MSN users, and other IM products (Yahoo!, Skype and now Google) are edging into that market. PSTN breakout is one way of ensuring that you at least offer as much as the best of the competition.
Microsoft had a very interesting project on the burner a couple of years ago called Portrait:-
Nothing ever really happened with it.
I can see the technology in Portrait being wrapped up into MSN messenger, PSTN breakout provided by the Teleo purchase and the whole thing bundled with next generation Windows.
I think the key point of interest here, certainly mine anyway, is the way that this kind of technology (and it's obvious it's going to be a big thing) impacts the webmaster, and the WebmasterWorld member.
I can foresee a complete ressurrection of the "callto://" tag in web pages. We've seen similar already with online stores offering a type of "chat now" service based on a java text/instant messenger type script. Many online vendors find that kind of customer interaction very valuable. But being text based just makes it a little quirky.
Now look at what is happening with voice on the internet now, and how that is being bundled into "presence" applications such as instant messaging across the board by the big IM outfits. And then take a look at some user numbers (figures are a little dated now, but serve the purpose):-
MSN : 23.1m
Yahoo! : 19m
AIM : 31.9m
Skype : 15m (depending on who you believe)
.... and that makes nearly 90 million people out there potentially with VoIP on their desktop ready to be launched with a click of a callto:// tag.
Now, if you like to talk to your customer while he's surfing your website...
Group discussions with a mixture of MSN chatters, mobile, and POTS services could be done as well.
Most voip calls today still terminate on the pstn or cell phone tower, so there is still a charge for providers of voip services because they still pay termination fees (in addition to the large capital investments required for equipment and pops in every major NFL city).
What's cool (or scary) about what Google is doing (buying dark fiber and hiring telco techs) and Microsoft with voip technology can do, is if enough people have it downloaded as a client, one can avoid the pstn termination alltogether. A critical mass of SIP enabled clients is what will finally kill the old POTS network.
And right through my laptop speakers and a $12 mike, my Google talk calls sound as good as my vonage line with a $150 Cisco ATA adaptor.
Amazing considering thisd is their first attempt at a SIP stack and the client is extremely light.