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Microsoft To Offer Free Wireless VoIP 208

Posted by Hemos
from the excellent-move dept.
Strudelkugel writes "The Business Online reports: MICROSOFT has developed a Skype-style free internet voice service for mobile phones that City analysts believe could wipe billions off the market value of operators such as Vodafone.The service is included in a mobile version of Microsoft Office Communicator due to be released this year. It will take the form of a voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) application that allows Office users to make free voice calls over wi-fi enabled phones running Windows Mobile software. Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer dropped his bombshell at the mobile operators' annual 3GSM show in Barcelona last week. The significance of his remarks was missed because of his effusive and eccentric delivery..." That is huge; I would hope to see the same thing coming out on the Symbian and other devices. The hard part will be getting these to market; since almost all mobile phones are sold thru the mobile telcom companies.
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Microsoft To Offer Free Wireless VoIP

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  • Anti-competitive? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ilitirit (873234) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:21AM (#14760019)
    Bundling free services with Microsoft products? I smell a lawsuit.
    • by krunk4ever (856261)
      That would only be true if they had a monopoly on mobile phones OS, which I doubt. A perfectly good comparison would be seeing Apple bundle Safari and QuickTime w/ their OS. It's not anti-competitive if they don't have a monopoly which in my opinion is quite stupid.
      • However , they could be leveraging their current monopoly to force their way into this market . Then it would be an open target for an anti-trust case .
      • Re:Anti-competitive? (Score:3, Informative)

        by OwlWhacker (758974)
        That would only be true if they had a monopoly on mobile phones OS, which I doubt.

        No, it wouldn't.

        Microsoft has an operating system monopoly, and therefore most people use its operating system.

        If most people use its operating system, they're also likely to use any bundled services that come with it (as they're free), rather than paying extra to use similar services elsewhere.

        Microsoft is 'leveraging its monopoly'. That's what it always does.

        For example: If Microsoft wanted the proprietary WMP file format to
        • The point is moot, since the item is a part of MS Office, not the OS. Granted, many use Office, but there is little incentive for most to upgrade. I imagine that they're hoping this inclusion to Office draws interest.
        • First off, your post makes no sense, because we're talking about MOBILE PHONES here, not desktop PCs. VoIP "bundled" on a mobile phone has nothing to do with their supposedly monopolistic desktop OS.

          Secondly, your example with WMP is flawed. Media Player IS already bundled with the desktop OS, but the result is not that WMF/WMA suddenly becomes the most common format, and the reason is that WMP supports other video formats as well. Yeah, they provide WMF as a default option, but WinAmp supports it by defa
          • It has a screen, keyboard and in some cases a pointing device. It has storage, and many computers these days -- especially laptops -- have an antenna. Mobile phones run WinCE, PDAs run WinCE, computers run WinCE. Mobile phone == computer. Clear on that?

            Microsoft sell computer OSes, in fact have an economic monopoly on them. Microsoft have been slapped down (well, slapped on the wrist in the USA) for bundling other products with their OS (MSIE and WMP being two specific examples) to force it into peoples' ha
    • They're already doing this with messenger, they just have to make a GUI that doesn't sucks to make people use it (the UI is somewhat improved with the upcoming messenger 8)
    • Which will never get anywhere while Republicans run things.
    • How does this square with Ballmer's ranting about the evils of people giving away their work for free? I guess he meant to say "unless we do it."
  • the hard part? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ChrisGilliard (913445) <christopher,gilliard&gmail,com> on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:24AM (#14760029) Homepage
    The hard part will be getting these to market; since almost all mobile phones are sold thru the mobile telcom companies.

    I think consumers will be willing to buy cell phones from anyone who can eliminate their costly cell phone bills. All Microsoft would have to do is work out a deal with Walmart or some other national chain and people will flock there if this is the real deal.
    • It's a *gimmick*. Wipe billions off the mobile companies... Honestly, talk about hyperbole...

      You can already buy DECT compatible mobile phones, they haven't taken off because people just use the phone on their desk when near it, simple. And wifi has a 150 foot range... get real...

       
    • So how does this wipe out someone's cell phone bill? Now instead of paying one company to use their national network you'll have to negotiate with a dozen companies to use their hotspots. Oh, and they don't have the capacity to handle very many people, so they're going to start charging VOIP users more. Not to mention you can't call anyone on a regular POTS or cell phone (for free. I'm sure someone will be happy to charge you for that functionality).
  • Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by $exyNerdie (683214) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:26AM (#14760032) Homepage Journal
    "...could wipe billions off the market value of operators such as Vodafone"

    Only if free wi-fi is available everywhere where Vodafone signal is...
    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by dodobh (65811) on Monday February 20, 2006 @08:23AM (#14760225) Homepage
      You only need an instrument capable of switching to GSM when Wifi is not available.

      Something like this perhaps:

      http://www.gizmodo.com/archives/motorola-cn620-sea mless-wifi-to-gsm-voice-calls-017270.php [gizmodo.com]
      http://www.voip-info.org/wiki-VOIP+Phones [voip-info.org]
      http://blog.tmcnet.com/blog/tom-keating/mobile-pho nes/zyxel-dualmode-gsmwifi-phone.asp [tmcnet.com]

      Enjoy :P
    • "The significance of his remarks was missed because of his effusive and eccentric delivery... coming out on the Sybian and other devices."

      Cann'tt yyoouu jjuusttt feeeeell tthhee lloovvee..

    • Very good point. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@corne[ ]edu ['ll.' in gap]> on Monday February 20, 2006 @08:50AM (#14760314) Homepage
      Free, RELIABLE wi-fi is not available in nearly as many areas in the U.S. as even T-Mobile cell phone coverage. (Note: T-Mobile's coverage SUCKS. They still have far greater and more reliable coverage than free or even paid Wi-Fi.)

      Also note that 802.11's channel access scheme is not well suited to transferring many small packets at low latency, which is required for VoIP. The end result is that even an 802.11g access point at full rate (54 Mbps) has trouble matching even a 1.544 Mbps T1 line in terms of VoIP capacity, *even with voice compression*. This is because the capacity limit turns out to be not the raw bitrate, but the number of *packets* per second that the system is able to handle. Small packets and 802.11 just don't mix for a number of reasons. For bulk data, there are packet bursting extensions to 802.11 that help a lot (Part of SuperG for example, and I think Broadcom's equivalent to SuperG also does bursting), but packet bursting introduces too much latency and variation in latency for VoIP.

      There was a good analysis of 802.11 capacity for SIP-based VoIP somewhere, I can't remember where. Note that IAX trunks would get MUCH better capacity in this situation, but this only helps for actual trunk connections (for example, trunking across a long-range cantenna-based 11g link), not when each user has a different device connected to the AP.
      • We have several Cisco 7920 wireless phones running. They run on regular 802.11g with no special features or extensions to the protocol. We have never had a single complaint about voice quality. Some are even on a local wireless network connected to our main site over a wireless bridge link, so their calls cross two different 802.11 networks before getting to our gateway.

        I know of other sites that use the same phones for everyone with no complaints.

        Jason
        • Here is two technologies that could help the situation. First there is http://sanswire.com/ [sanswire.com] and second there is http://www.extendamerica.com/ [extendamerica.com]. The second one is suppose to be tested in North Dakota later this year. The first is suppose to get 600 million dollars from Russia to put up a network there some time this year.
        • How many simultaneous calls per AP were you running?

          I didn't say that 802.11g was totally unsuited to VoIP, just that the maximum capacity was much lower than one would expect given the bitrate of 11g (54 Mbps) and the required bitrate per VoIP channel (worst case 64 kbps) because the throughput penalty for small packets over 802.11g is so large. The analysis I remember reading indicated at best 24-30 concurrent VoIP connections on an 11g AP with a good codec, which is approximately the same capacity as un
      • "Free, RELIABLE wi-fi is not available in nearly as many areas in the U.S. as even T-Mobile cell phone coverage."

        And cheap, reliable cell coverage is not available in nearly as many areas in the US as Iridium satellite phone.

        That doesnt keep the cellphones cheap good-enough coverage from wiping the floor with the satellite solution.

        The fact is, the vast majority of revenue is from people who roam between one or two places; home and work, mostly covered by wi-fi. The writing's been on the wall for this one a
        • The vast majority of cellular revenue may come from people who roam between work and home, but most of them talk on the way. How well does 802.11 currently work from a moving car? (I admit this would have the advantage of getting drivers off the phone.)

          Even for Internet access I find myself frequently using my Verizon 1xEVDO card because I can't get or maintain 802.11 coverage, or don't want to have to pay all the various 802.11 service providers.

          Disclaimer: I work for Qualcomm.

    • One of the existing Wireless broadband providers here in Ireland, Digiweb, has won a licence to use part of the radio spectrum for Wireless broadband to mobile devices. This will be used for VoIP and other services.

      So such services need not necessarily rely on "wi-fi".

      Although, the countryside will be a bit cluttered here in Ireland with small mobile phone cells for three operators on GSM, and a couple *extra* operators with their own 3G networks, wireless broadband to fixed locations by several operators,
  • by Isomer (48061) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:26AM (#14760033) Homepage
    Microsoft are just as scared of VoIP as the carriers, with Skype, Google Talk and everyone else jumping on the VoIP bandwagon, it's another application "space" that Microsoft haven't entered and therefore can't control. By releasing their own "Skype killer" it means that they can control how people use this service, and make sure that Microsoft products are the way to do it.
    • Thanks to their deplorable deal with Intel [slashdot.org] they are off my memory page for good.
    • Microsoft was one of the first Voip providers.

      Remember Netmeeting? That was around since I believe IE4, maybe earlier. The biggest problem was that it didn't have a way to easily connect to other users without knowing their IP address, so me and my friends used to use ICQ's IP address reporting to connect to each other, that is until MSN messenger came out.

      Speaking of MSN messenger, MSN messenger had full voip capabilities when it was first released, including dialpad.com like calling from your computer to
    • This isn't windows, this isn't outlook, this isn't word.

      This is Notepad, people keep screaming that "There's gold in dem' dere hills" guess what there isn't...

      Even skype is overpriced, free telephony is coming.

      The only reason it hasn't happened yet is because of old fashioned wireless services and pricing systems (if you could offer the flexability of voip through a cell phone the telephone companies could save billions but they'd have to admit that there networks are vastly overpowered for that kind
  • Sounds Great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by omegashenron (942375) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:26AM (#14760034)

    As much as I hate microsoft, I think they are on a real winner with this one. If it ever makes it to the Australian market I'd sign up for it. I for one am sick to death of paying a $0.20 call connection fee + $0.60 per minute to use my mobile, perhaps this will force the telecommunications industry to adopt reasonable rates.

    • Re:Sounds Great (Score:3, Insightful)

      by shmlco (594907)
      "...perhaps this will force the telecommunications industry to adopt reasonable rates."

      Nah. It will just cause them to run out their tame congress-critters, who'll enact anti-VOIP legislation for the "good" of the consumer. Probably under the guise of VOIP being unable to do 911 emergency location services.

    • As much as I hate microsoft, I think they are on a real winner with this one.

      I'm failing to see the difference between this "service" they're offering and just running a SIP client on a 802.11 enabled cellphone (or other device). SIP clients are already available for Windows CrapEdition devices (have been for ages).

      Of course, I'm a little miffed that I still can't seem to get a SIP client for my Sony Ericsson P900 (runs Symbian UIQ) :(
    • Re:Sounds Great (Score:4, Informative)

      by killjoe (766577) on Monday February 20, 2006 @08:59AM (#14760344)
      You can do this now. If you have a windows based mobile phone you can use skype. You don't have to wait for MS to sell you something.

      All you need is a wifi spot.
      • You can do this now. If you have a windows based mobile phone you can use skype.

        Why would you want to do Skype? You could use SIP, which is the industry standard protocol rather than using a propriatory system. That way you could call anyone else who uses SIP without needing to involve a third-party "service provider" and you get to choose which PSTN gateway you use if you want to call someone on the PSTN.
  • by ben_1432 (871549) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:33AM (#14760054)
    Good on Microsoft for showing some initiative. Skype's great, and I pay to use it, but it does not have the impact (read marketing) MS can throw behind a product.

    Considering what an absolute rip-off cell calls are and have always been, I'm all for free wireless + voip.

    PS. I wonder if any telco ceo's are throwing chairs around :)
  • by Zork the Almighty (599344) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:37AM (#14760067) Journal
    As I read this article I couldn't help but think of the parallels between what Microsoft is doing with VOIP and what IBM did with the personal computer. VOIP is headed for 100% adoption now, and the telcos are in serious trouble. People are going to use free or cheap internet access points, and nobody is going to pay those outrageous rates for the cell phone infrastructure anymore.

    Thank you, Microsoft. You may still be evil, but you've done the world a favor by destroying the exploitative business model of an industry that is arguably more evil.
    • by Zork the Almighty (599344) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:41AM (#14760076) Journal
      I should add: "Please stab Hollywood in the back next!"
      • They are bundling the mp3, wma and likely ogg codecs for audio.

        For video we should get Xvid, and H.264 which means they're basically doing all they can, once people can just click a link on the net without installing ANY third party software it'll be Napster all over again.

        Every single teenager will review a movie with a torrent link at the bottom, I.M.'s will start having auto bittorrent lookups for keywords.

        People will try before they buy and with the crap out today they won't buy... Good news all a
    • Yes, MS has magically created a gigantic wireless mesh spanning the entire world, and everyone'll have free low-latency bandwidth! FREE! yes! FREE PHONE CALLS! CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? NOW!!11232

      wow. people are so naive.
    • Not sure what universe you're living in but out of all the
      people I know only 1 uses VoIP at all and even then only
      when he can be bothered (easier to pick up a phone than
      wait for PC to boot and all the associated bollocks that
      goes with it). Sure , VoIP might be becoming popular in
      internal corporate LANS but thats about it so far.
    • I doubt this means that the telcos are in serious trouble. First of all most telcos are already getting into VOIP so the majority of customers will stick with them. I think you also have to consider the fact that it would be fairly simply for the internet providers to throttle back the bandwidth of non-friendly (i.e. free) VOIP services to the point that it becomes unusable. This would be especially important for businesses. Almost like the mafia, either use our service or your VOIP gets it. ;-)
  • by nagora (177841)
    Can you IMAGINE what a mess Microsoft will make of this. Time to block those ports...

    TWW

  • by Sub Zero 992 (947972) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:40AM (#14760073) Homepage
    Convergence between small, portable computing devices and small, portable telephones has been occurring for years. Much of the technology is the same, much of the manufacturing is the same, the consumers are the same.

    The question is, how much control of our personal information, how much logging and protocolling, how centralized will this convergence become? I would really hate to see the day when most people are emailing, phoning, websurfing and otherwise communicating on a hardware and software platform which comes with user-distrust cryptographically enforced on a TPM module.
  • by DrXym (126579) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:40AM (#14760074)
    3G internet costs a fortune to use (it's a total scam). I think Vodafone would actually be delighted if you were foolish enough to use VOIP over 3G. MS might make it "free" to call fellow MS Office licensees, but the internet access isn't free.

    The other possibility is that the phone has some kind of wi-fi capabilties that connects to a local wireless network. I'm sure that will be the first feature to be crippled when you buy your Vodafone / O2 / Orange / T-Mobile branded phone.

    But even assuming it weren't, how is this any different from what you can do with Skype now? I use my iPaq & Skype to make calls from hotels all the time. I too can call other Skype users for free, and landlines & mobiles. They don't have to buy MS Office or even be running Windows. The biggest problem with wi-fi access is that coverage spotty, potentially expensive, potentially illegal, and there is no roaming or moving at all. And you can kiss goodbye to your battery life. On top of that, workers are expected to be using a Microsoft enable phone with Microsoft Office.

    It all sounds like a pipe dream to me. Of course because MS is a huge gorilla they might be able to foist this on some networks, especially the concept of site wide coverage (i.e. it works anywhere on the company premises), but that's about it IMHO.

    • That, and the fact that there's nothing free about the service anyway. Those of you saying things like "a leaf out of Google's book" are way off. Google offers its services for free to all comers. This Microsoft thing is more analogous to the "free dvd" you get on a magazine - it's only free in that you can't quantify the mark-up of the price of what it comes with.

      And besides that:
      1. included in a mobile version of Microsoft Office Communicator
      2. allows Office users to make free voice calls
      3. phones running Wind
    • by acid_zebra (552109) <acidzebra AT gmail DOT com> on Monday February 20, 2006 @08:01AM (#14760154) Homepage Journal
      "3G internet costs a fortune to use"

      that phase will not last long. Already here in the Netherlands I can get almost 100% coverage (granted, we're a small country) and my provider has contracts with most other European countries so I don't pay through the nose there.

      I pay something like 60-70 EUR a month for flat-fee UMTS access.
      • I pay something like 60-70 EUR a month for flat-fee UMTS access

        Yeah, but I bet you're bandwidth capped. How expensive does it get when you discover that you've blown your inclusive 200MB/month (or whatever it is) though web browsing, email and VoIP calls, and you default to their higher tariff ? The parent is quite right for countries like the UK.

        The article says this will be targeted at business users first. And that's where I see it having the most appeal.

      • I use Vodafone in Ireland and the 3G service is IMHO a total ripoff. The price for WAP (internet) is 2 cents per kilobyte! Hence the reason that Vodafone would be laughing if you used their service for VOIP. On top of that they'll rape you if you ever roam on your phone, even on other Vodafone networks.

        Now this particular article refers to wi-fi so it's probably not 3G. But since Vodafone subsidize and customize their handsets you can virtually guarantee that no phone of theirs will support it, or if they

    • 3G internet costs a fortune to use (it's a total scam). I think Vodafone would actually be delighted if you were foolish enough to use VOIP over 3G. MS might make it "free" to call fellow MS Office licensees, but the internet access isn't free.

      I think this is the key point. If "free" internet access were available everywhere cell phone coverage was available, then this would be a no-brainer. Cell phones would merely become batter-powered wireless LAN cards with a microphone and a speaker attached to the
    • Well first off Microsoft might integrate it well enough and easily enough that you could call someone at their VOIP address and expect an answer without checking if they were online (fallback to traditional phone system.) Second if it comes preinstalled with windows or ties itself to existing e-mail addresses (hotmail's huge marketshare anyone) they could create a standard for telephone identities which is sorely lacking right now in VOIP.

      Their solution will probably look a lot like MSN but something like
  • definition: (Score:5, Funny)

    by lxs (131946) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:48AM (#14760102)
    ...from the Microsoft internal dictionary:

    Innovation (noun) The act of poorly imitating the most hyped current technology and passing it off as your own.
    • It works for Google...

      Google's last big announcement was that they're working on letting people use gmail to provide maikl service on their own domain names. But it turns out another major internet web email provider had done the same thing already... Microsoft.
  • by Tenk101 (938734) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:49AM (#14760107)

    I'm all for this, but at least where I live in the UK most public WAPss are control by telephone companies like BT or T-Mobile, this even includes WAPss that you find in hotels etc.. It would definately be good at home and at work but I think less good on the move unless a bunch more WiFi operators start up and get seriously comptetive.

    As it is, I only really use public WAPs when I really need something because they also charge very high rates for short sessions like an hour. The only way to get better rates on the public WAPs is to subscribe to a telco operated service then you end up full circle.
  • by madsen (17668) <.if.iki. .ta. .nesdam.> on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:51AM (#14760114) Homepage
    The hard part will be getting these to market; since almost all mobile phones are sold thru the mobile telcom companies.
    In the states perhaps. In Europe it's very common that you buy your phones unlockled. Here in Finland it's even illegal to sell a phone with the service included, they have to be sold separately, without connection.
    • That's interesting, I was just wondering why MS would risk pissing off the carriers (who almost always bundle phones here in the US) when MS Mobile enabled phones on this side of the ocean barely have a toe-hold in the market. The carriers here can litterally make or break a phone. If they see MS as a threat (and they are weary of them at best), they will simply kill off the market for MS Mobile phones and that will be the end of that. Now, if the US gov were to make it illegal to bundle phones, then this m
  • by Diomidis Spinellis (661697) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:55AM (#14760128) Homepage
    Mobile operators are also moving in the same direction with the unlicensed mobile access [wikipedia.org] (UMA) technology. With UMA you'll be able to make calls with your mobile phone through a Wi-Fi network. The operators know that this will eat into their wireless revenue stream, but they hope to recover the losses from a higher usage (you'll be using your mobile phone at home). So the real question is the choice between Microsoft's (nonstandard?) VoIP version and UMA.
    • So the real question is the choice between Microsoft's (nonstandard?) VoIP version and UMA.


      Sorry mate, the question is, whether it will be SIP over 3G broadband mobile phones or just GSM over wifi (UMA). Now, my bet is on the first one, because it is simpler and judging past behaviours of mobile telco's... cheaper.

  • "The significance of his remarks was missed because of his effusive and eccentric delivery..."

    is THAT what that monkey dance is called. Hey, mom! I'm not a total wingnut! I'm effusive and eccentric!
  • And it will probably use their own protocol and probably have to connect to the PSTN constantly to have any usefulness. And because they connect to the PSTN they will have to pay pound-me-in-the-ass wholesale rates for calls, completely defeating the purpose of VoIP. I used to work in the VoIP industry and made a striking observation. The calls that get completely routed SIP/SDP/RTP are dirt cheap! This is what a majority of what the small guys do and they make an absolute killing. One guy with a 2,500 doll
  • consider the risk of MSIEzating the VoIP protocol. I seriously don't believe Microsoft isn't going to play the usual proprietarization trick to lock user under their own closed platform and eventually levy its own monopoly tax. In any case the quality of Microsoft 1.0 releases hasn't ever been exactly stellar so while waiting for Microsoft to get it right try this other proprietary platform [skype.com]. After all it's here, now.
  • Skype has that (Score:5, Informative)

    by Britz (170620) on Monday February 20, 2006 @08:24AM (#14760226) Homepage
    Isn't that exactly what Skype has been offering for almost 2 years now with Skype for Pocket PC?

    http://www.skype.com/products/skype/pocketpc/ [skype.com]
  • While the pundits are thanking MS for undercutting the telcos, who are even bigger bloodsuckers than MS itself is, this is, IMO, simply Microsoft trying to grab a niche in the smartphone market where it has been performing terribly, even after the famous Microsoft 3rd Try(TM), where they usually finally make the product good enough to compete. The handset makers realised pretty early on that Microsoft's partnerships were terribly one-sided, and generally stayed with Symbian which is generally far less onero
  • If Google did this then you could store a month's worth of old conversations and search for words within them.
    On Google's servers, of course.
  • Too many politics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by porkThreeWays (895269) on Monday February 20, 2006 @09:07AM (#14760379)
    Do we really need "cell phones" anymore these days? It's hard to believe we are still doing things like this. Here's what we should have in 2006...

    Gone is the idea of the "phone". You make phone calls via a softphone on your iPaq or Zaurus type mobile device. You have a handheld computer with a softphone. Instead of the idea of connecting to a cellular phone network, you pay a monthly flat fee and get a 1 megabit EVDO pipe to your phone and home computer. You pay your VoIP provider for minutes and your cellular network provider for internet access.

    The ONLY reason we don't do things like that is because cell companies have so much control. They make a crapload of money scamming us and aren't going to give it up anytime soon. Cell phone networks are of the few networks left you actually pay on a per byte basis. There's no technical reason for them to do it. They just know there are few players in that market and can get away with it.

    All it would really take is an internet service provider to get the balls and team up with a cable TV and VoIP provider. Provide fiber to the home for TV, phone, and internet. Set up a 3G cell network with EVDO for mobile internet access. Sell iPaq's with a softphone. They could make a KILLING. I'm willing to bet most of middle class America would pay 200-300 dollars a month FLAT FEE to get all their voice, tv, and internet from one provider that they can use anywhere (when in reality, it's just providing internet with other services on top of it).

    Sadly though, if someone's going to invest in a cellular network, they probably want to be in the raquet too and aren't going to provide all that.
    • > Here's what we should have in 2006...

      > Gone is the idea of the "phone". You make phone calls via
      > a softphone on your iPaq or Zaurus type mobile device

      Personally, I think this convergence crap is highly overrated. The problem is really simple -- for something to work well as a phone, it needs to be shaped like a phone. And something shaped like a phone does NOT make a very good mobile computing platform!

      My current personal solution is pretty straightforward -- I carry an old GSM phone for making
    • I'm willing to bet most of middle class America would pay 200-300 dollars a month FLAT FEE to get all their voice, tv, and internet from one provider that they can use anywhere (when in reality, it's just providing internet with other services on top of it).

      I was with you up until there.

      I currently pay: ~$50/month for basic cable TV + internet access ~$80/month for 2 cell phones ~$25/month for Vonage TOTAL: ~$155

      Even that is too much for us. We are cancelling the cell phones very soon. We had cel
  • Problems (Score:3, Interesting)

    by unoengborg (209251) on Monday February 20, 2006 @09:07AM (#14760380) Homepage
    This is great if you live in a big city with lots of WiFi hotspots, but I doubt Microsoft will provide the infrastructure to make it work in the coutryside. This would mean that these people would have to rely on traditional cell phone service providers. The cost for these people would probably go up drastically if Microsoft grabs all the customers in more profitable areas.

    There are also other issues, e.g. in many countries emergency calls needs to be tracable so that help can be sent even if the caller doesn't know where he is or is too badly injured to tell. Will Microsoft be able to provide this?

  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2 AT earthshod DOT co DOT uk> on Monday February 20, 2006 @09:08AM (#14760381)
    The thing is that unless this service is based upon open protocols and standards, it will be doomed to failure. How many electricity companies do you know who make money by selling you 72 volts, 16.6667Hz {well, that's what they say it is, but you aren't allowed to measure it} from weirdy sockets with different-shaped pins, and selling the special appliances to go with it possibly at a loss?

    Telephones only took off because of compatibility. POTS networks are all similar enough that you can be fairly sure that a phone or modem will work anywhere in the world, if you can only find the correct plug to fit the weirdy sockets you are likely to encounter on your travels {hint: two crocodile clips and a multi-tool [please let's not start a Gerber v. Leatherman flame war here; the Gerber must be better, because all cheap knock-offs are based on the Leatherman] are as good as anything}.

    A VoIP client is only any good if it is compatible with existing standards -- or if it can reasonably be reverse-engineered.
    • Yea but there are no existing standards...

      And ms has the infrastructure to run a centralized server easily thus providing a heap of standardization and reliability.

      It may not be the same standardization and reliability that Slashdotters want but it will be enough to dominate the market.

      Gaim is open but it runs support mostly for AIM,MSN and ICQ... because they're reliable and entrenched... Microsoft won't have a battle in the divided VOIP space they'll have a masacre.
  • Over hyped much? (Score:2, Informative)

    ...City analysts believe could wipe billions off the market value of operators such as Vodafone.

    Right... just like the PocketPC version of Skype did... this stuff only works reliably (well.. kinda...) over WiFi which limits you to your home, internet cafes, random unsecured WiFi points (not that I condone wardriving or any other illegal use of other peoples access points) and (for those who are lucky) WiFi enabled metropolitan areas. Now where is it that most people use there mobile phones? I think you'll

    • Exactly. I pay about £30 a month, and get as many free calls as I normally use.

      The alternative is to have a basic rental (say £15/month) and then have to have a separate wifi account and be switching around based on whether I can get a wifi signal with a network that I signed up for £20+/month. Bear in mind that often, I'm not near wifi and need to make a call.

      It's not a big enough saving to make it worth it.

      The interesting thing is whether wifi will even survive. 3G cards are coming

  • ...forget proprietary solutions. Most mobile devices have programming languages based on .net or java now. Those which support wifi can use any voip protocol someone writes a client for.

    The key here will be when a good SIP, IAX2, h.323, or whatever -- stack exists through LGPL so that most programmers can easily use it to create those clients.

    So, the Stack-Geek types need to get those open stacks written and out there so the UI-Geek types can use them to make clever VoIP clients.

    VoIP is so much more than
  • There are many reasons why today's existing cell phones are safe for now. They have more reliable coverage than WiFi, there are more cool phones available, some people ignore the rates, etc. However, voip is beginning to eat away from the bottom. It's true that for most, voip is still more trouble than it is worth but for a small and growing set of users, voip is perfect. If you make a lot of calls from a fixed point with an existing reliable ip network then voip already works well. I'm sure MSFT and Go
  • by twmcneil (942300) on Monday February 20, 2006 @10:41AM (#14760793)
    I can't wait.
  • The energy consumption of wifi is roughly 3-4 times more, that means that if you decide to manage most of your talks through the wifi connection, your batteries will last for a significanly shorter time. Today the battery is already the biggest part of your mobile phone, so unless there will be a huge breakthrough in the ways we store energy, there is another reason to think (besides those that others mentioned above) that wifi-enabled phones won't completely replace regular ones.
  • I wonder how this is too little, too late against the new alliance of 3G company 3 [skype.com] (available in AT, AU, HK, DK, SE, UK, IT, amongst others) with Skype, offering skyping via 3G. This should definitely get the international call prices down, a process which has begun in some places already.
  • Most of the cellular phones, and especially the high end ones, are sold with a big discount in exchange for a subscription period of 12 or 24 months. At least in Sweden. Who will discount Wi-Fi phones? I doubt that regular people will take the cost with the rather poor coverage of Wi-Fi currently. Also roaming between accesspoints needs to be solved before this is a real threat to cellular telephony. For fixed telephony it might be an alternative though, as is Skype. Sorry, but I doubt the success here, exc
  • I've had a Symbian phone for over a year now(Nokia 9500) and it's worked great, but there's nothing to add. With Windows Mobile I'll get Skype, I can use Woize [woize.com] if I have to, but I'd rather have Xten's PPC Phone [xten.com] which I can directly connect to my Asterisk box. Not to mention I can get a free AIM for it(Symbian costs, was only $30 or around there but still).

    Sorry, I love my Nokia, but I need my VoIP and I need features. Not to mention MiniMo will run on it too. =)
  • Those darn socialist hippies at Microsoft are at it again, taking bread out of the mouths of hard-working capitalists by GIVING stuff away for free. Don't those anarchist bastards realize there's no value in something if people don't have to pay for it? Presumably the quality of VOIP will now deteriorate, because lack of profit motive will kill innovation, etc, etc, and all the other things Ballmer is always ranting about.
  • Does this mean that M$ will provide guaranteed connections through out their coverage area? (smirk)

    What the carriers offer is a reliable connection and that is something that Voip+WiFi can't. Building out network coverage for this type of system will present reliability and coverage problems that are overcome by expensive carrier class equipment.
  • Anyone remember the stories about M$ buying into internet satellite schemes in about 2000?

    OK, now keeping that in mind, I pay 20$/mo for my VOIP system, another 100USD/mo (I'm overseas atm) for my broadband connection, and probably about 50USD/mo for my cell plan (Company picks that up).

    If I could call up my fiance dept and say "Hey, what you say we go halfers on that cell phone, but instead we'll use this sat link" do you think Finace would go along with it?

    Add to that the fact that I'm technical architech
  • WRONG!

    It would transfer those Billions TO MICROSOFT, as if they don't have enough already.

    It's not new behavior for Microsoft. Netscape, Go, Pen, Stacker ... just to name a few.

    What folks don't realize is how Microsoft's economic behavior has transfered Billions from the government, pension funds and other companies to their company by a variety of means, all unethical and/or illegal. See:
    http://www.billparish.com/msftfraudfacts.html [billparish.com]
  • Sell MORE Pocket PC than competing smart phones, or we'll launch free voice-over-WiFi?

A modem is a baudy house.

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