Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Microsoft Outline VoIP Strategy, Voice/Video Traffic Soars on MSN

At the Spring VON conference in San Jose, Microsoft outlined its VoIP strategy and vision for Windows Live.

"Our mission with Windows Live is to deepen people's relationships with whomever and whatever matters most to them," said Blake Irving, corporate vice president of the MSN Communication Services and Member Platform group. "We will get there by working closely with the whole ecosystem of telecommunications, Internet services and hardware manufacturing partners to build a complete presence- and contact-centric communications experience. Voice and video will play a critical role as a data type that brings relationships to life online, taking us from an era of black and white to Technicolor."

Microsoft today offers customers free video conversation (integrated audio and video) powered by Logitech and free PC-to-PC voice capabilities powered by Microsoft technology via MSNMessenger. In addition, Windows Live Messenger includes one-way PC-to-phone calling capabilities in several markets that are part of a pay-for-use service provided by Verizon.

Microsoft also reported a sharp uptick in customer use of voice and video services over the past six months, including record usage in January.

MSN Messenger hosted voice sessions totaling more than 800 million minutes in January 2006.

Video usage on the service is currently growing even faster than voice usage alone, with video conversation connecting customers for almost 1.1 billion minutes in January. In addition, stand-alone webcam usage totaled an additional 7 billion minutes in January.

"More than 20 million users on average are using our voice conversation service in MSN and Windows Live Messenger each month," Irving said. "While the number is impressive, it's only a small portion of our 205 million active MSN Messenger users each month. There is still a lot of room to grow."

Microsoft continues to invest in voice and video, with the following scheduled to be available to customers later this year:

  • Windows Live Mail. Microsoft Windows Live Mail Desktop Beta is a new, upcoming free e-mail client built to work seamlessly with the new Windows Live Mail service. Windows Live Mail Desktop Beta with other Windows Live services will enable customers to right click on their contacts' names to start a PC-to-PC or PC-to-phone voice or video
    conversation with them directly from e-mail.

  • Windows Live Search. Microsoft will test voice functionality with
    Windows Live Search, enabling some customers to place a call to a
    search result directly from their PC.

  • Windows Live Messenger. To make using voice capabilities more natural with Windows Live, Microsoft is working with partners including Royal Philips Electronics NV (in select countries in Europe, and in Australia, New Zealand and Latin America) and Uniden America (for North America) to introduce new phones that connect to a PC and will allow consumers to make PC-to-PC and one-way PC-to-phone calls using Windows Live Messenger or traditional telephone calls using their existing service provider.

See also