Funny... we thought that Yahoo had announced their Yahoo-messenger-as-Skype-killer offering back in December. However, today they're getting more life out of the story by launching the beta along pretty much the same lines they had outlined before. As we noted at the time, this shouldn't be about "cheap calls." That's not a differentiation battle that can be won -- it's simply a race to the bottom. That's why it's a bit surprising to see Yahoo Veep Brad Garlinghouse say to the press that their differentiation is "aggressive pricing." That's not an advantage for long, and the folks at Yahoo must know that. It seems there may be two reasons for this statement, however. First, is that it's an easy "hook" for the press to get -- and they need one for a product like this. So, focusing on the cheap calls gets people to write about you. Second, and more interesting (if true!), is that this is really about Yahoo trying to head fake the competition into believing this really is going to be about price, while Yahoo actually recognizes that VoIP is just a feature of a more integrated personal communications platform. Given everything that the company is integrating into messenger, this makes a lot more sense. They're trying to make Yahoo messenger your "console" for communications (not just online communications). That's a lot more interesting and powerful than starting up yet another price war over cheap calls. Of course, focusing too much on the cheap calls aspect may mean that users don't see the overall advantages either... Cheap calls are great for a segment of the population, but for many people it competes with folks who have flat-rate calling for most domestic calls via VoIP or huge buckets of "free" minutes on mobile phones. "Cheap" calls still represent an incremental cost over bundled calls.
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