by Mike Masnick

We Get It: Calling Phones From Our Computers Will Be Damn Cheap

from the so-now-what? dept

Last week the story spread pretty quickly that Yahoo was launching integrated PC-to-phone calls (and vice versa) through their instant messenger program. The official press release should be popping out of Santa Clara in a few hours, but to make the story more interesting, Microsoft has timed it to announce their own version, based on their Teleo acquisition and a deal with MCI. At first glance, the Microsoft announcement falls short in almost every way to Yahoo's. Yahoo's prices are going to be less than half of Microsoft's (and Skype's) and rather than working with just one provider (MCI), it appears Yahoo is leveraging relationships with a number of different telco providers, giving them more flexibility. Still, these are just the early positioning moves before the big battle which has yet to come. The real question is whether any of these providers can really make their VoIP offering into a true platform -- opening up a real API to let others build voice into more applications, even (gasp!) competitors' applications. From what we've seen so far, it appears the early focus is on using voice to drive more people in as a destination site -- even when that makes very little sense. It's not surprising, but it means there's still a ways to go before we see some of the innovation that will eventually come out of all this. In the meantime, these two announcements, both of which everyone should have seen from about 50,000 miles away, should increase the head scratching over the amount of cash eBay threw at Skype. The battle over next generation voice offerings is just starting. It's not about cheap calls, though the press will go through that phase. For people not calling internationally who have big flat rate plans or unlimited calling, "cheap calls" aren't particularly appealing. The real battle is about how VoIP lets people do things they couldn't do before -- and we're only scratching the surface of that. Update: Even the smaller players are using today as the day. Apparently the Gizmo Project/SIPphone is also announcing their PC-to-phone offering, which looks to match Yahoo's pricing of one cent/minute. These price battles will obscure the real war for a while.

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  1. identicon
    Sv, 13 Dec 2005 @ 2:22am

    Amazing future before us


    John: So call tonight ok?

    Silvia: What was your phone again?

    John: johnjake.newyork.us

    Silvia: Which network is this?

    John: MS

    Silvia: Damn we don't have access to this, will have to download yet another messenger. Url to the messenger?

    John: dunno, gyahoogle it.

    Silvia: Bah, probably will e-mail you anyway. Check often.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Urza9814, 13 Dec 2005 @ 3:34am

    Um...Gizmo ain't new

    That sipphone/gizmo offering isn't anything new...I had gizmo several months ago and I believe it was 1.1 cents a minute, so...
    Of course, I could be confusing gizmo with one of the other ones I've tried...

    Oh, and why not FREE calls? VOIPBuster does it! Sure, they lag like crazy, but that's not the point! :-P

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Aaron, 13 Dec 2005 @ 6:17am

    No Subject Given

    You know with all the hype surrounind VOIP and PC to phone calls, has everyone forgot about MSN and Yahoo! Messengers ability to do voice chat? While I was in Korea I talked to my wife for free for hours at a time. On top of that, she had dialup AOL service at the time (we've since upgraded to cable) So all these providers can keep their pay to talk plans. If I am going to call a pc, I'll use the free messenger services.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Aaron, 13 Dec 2005 @ 6:28am

    Re: No Subject Given

    Okay, so I can't spell, and I used sloppy grammar. Sorry. surrounding* and forgotten*

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    AnonAuthor, 13 Dec 2005 @ 6:42am

    If only VoIP truly worked.

    I've got Gizmo, Yahoo (Dialpad), VoipBuster, Firefly, CQPhone, and Woize on my computer. *None* of them consistently provide even just decent service at least 80% of the time when calling to/from PC-to-landline/cellular. This is one cutting edge that's leading this customer bloody.

    Oh, I forgot Skype--the most over-hyped of the bunch. (Skype + Hype - Customer Service = Sk-Yikes!.) I submitted a trouble ticket to it over six weeks ago, have provided the information it requested several times, but have yet to hear one single word back from it. A read through their forums reveals that is not at all unusual.

    If the old-school landline players have one undeniable edge, it is indeed customer service. No matter how bad one might think theirs is, *any* service is better than none at all--which every VoIP player obviously thinks is unnecessary. I guess at one to two cents per minute, one can obviously forget receiving support from anyone who must be paid to deliver it as their job.

    Can you imagine having to go to often immature, clueless, rude, and non-paid forum helpers with BellSouth, Sprint, etc. when you have a problem? One thing VoIP has delivered is much greater appreciation for customer service I [once] thought was bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Ben, 13 Dec 2005 @ 7:13am

    Re: If only VoIP truly worked.

    Your right. Land lines have a huge customer service rating. its called the 5 9's. which means 99,999 out of 100,000 are happy customers. i don't think any VoiP can claim even half that. no matter how cheap something is no one will want to use it if its not going to work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Aaron Guthrey, 13 Dec 2005 @ 7:18am


    Please let Google come in and give both sides a run for their money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    RevMike, 13 Dec 2005 @ 8:23am

    Re: If only VoIP truly worked.

    Land lines have a huge customer service rating. its called the 5 9's. which means 99,999 out of 100,000 are happy customers.

    Actually, 5-9's refers to 99.999% availability, the reliability of the phone network. Taken as a whole, the circuit switched phone network in the United States is 99.999% available. Glitchs can't add up to more than 5 minutes 15 seconds per year.

    Of course, that doesn't apply to every telephone and every circumstance. An idiot with a backhoe, a car hitting a telephone pole, or a local or regional disaster might take out some particular lines, but it is unusual that even a local exchange goes down for a substantial period of time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Andrew Strasser, 13 Dec 2005 @ 8:58am

    Re: If only VoIP truly worked.

    If you've truely seen the antiquated systems running most of our towns switching you'd probably eat those words. I worked for awhile repairing the old antiquated switches for the phones in town. The stuff was literally out of a 1970's electronics textbook wires and everything. Our phone systems are going through massive upgrades which could drive the prices of using the phone much higher. We have to find an alternate solution because 75% of the nation can't afford to switch over to new digital switching solutions and the old boards aren't made anymore. Should be interesting to see how the next ten yrs. work themselves out.

    It used to be easy to make calls from your computer. I don't understand what happened here. Maybe my mind has went to flubber, however I distinctly remember more than 5 yrs. ago using a headset w/ mic because my friends had cable but no telephone. I think many people have had the woll pulled over their eyes in this whole ordeal. Those dialers disappear or something? It would however be nice to forward calls to your broadband device in the future.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2005 @ 10:08am

    Re: If only VoIP truly worked.

    Tell that to people in new orleans .:)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    DJ-Panic, 23 Dec 2005 @ 5:48pm

    dialing up the past

    Y'know, I remember using dialpad years ago when it was a free service too. I've been a little curious what happened here myself, cause about 8 years ago pc to landline calling was no big deal...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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