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Microsoft To Offer Free Wireless VoIP 208

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

    by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:36AM (#14760065) Homepage
    "...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.

  • by krunk4ever ( 856261 ) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:37AM (#14760066) Homepage
    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.
  • by nagora ( 177841 ) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:38AM (#14760070)
    Can you IMAGINE what a mess Microsoft will make of this. Time to block those ports...


  • 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.

  • by caffeination ( 947825 ) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:47AM (#14760098)
    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 Windows Mobile software
    We are Microsoft. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile
  • by lastberserker ( 465707 ) <> on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:48AM (#14760103) Homepage Journal
    Thanks to their deplorable deal with Intel [] they are off my memory page for good.
  • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Monday February 20, 2006 @08:18AM (#14760207) Journal
    1 kilobyte? Try 160 bytes. If you send a short response to someone, you can be paying pennies per _bit_.

  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Monday February 20, 2006 @08:43AM (#14760287) Journal
    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 onerous than MS/Windows.

    MS tried everything. They threw their Smartphone OS at various small operators in the hope that it would undercut the established giants, such as Sony-Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola, but no one wanted the phones from unknown makers. In that market, brand is important.

    Of the telcos, the only large operator that took MS' Smartphone OS on, was Orange and it proved to be a disaster. The phones were unreliable and Orange treated potential developers as badly as everyone else did. The Orange smartphone tanked.

    By this time, VOIP had taken off, and Skype was first to the post and has continually expanded its userbase to the tune of Skype now having something like 300 million customers. That's pretty big. Slashdotters tend to only see the value of Skype in a technogeek kind of way, in that they only think it's worth it because they can perhaps use a Wifi enabled PDA or smartphone with a presumably free access point (at home and a few cities if you're lucky) to circumvent mobile operators. What they don't see are the uncounted millions of poor foreign guest workers and 3rd world internet cafe visitors who use Skype to avoid the high prices of overseas and long distance calls. Those people are the ones who really benefit from Skype.

    And they sure as fuck are not interested in buying Microsoft enabled Smartphones and Office. Microsoft is still trying to grab a niche in the smartphone market, but I'm pretty sure they'll fall flat on their faces once again.
  • Re:Free? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bandit0013 ( 738137 ) on Monday February 20, 2006 @08:51AM (#14760316)
    Like how you have to buy a laptop to use a free wifi spot?
  • by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <`sd_resp2' `at' `'> 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.
  • by Raindeer ( 104129 ) on Monday February 20, 2006 @09:38AM (#14760499) Homepage Journal
    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.

  • by 16K Ram Pack ( 690082 ) <[tim.almond] [at] []> on Monday February 20, 2006 @10:18AM (#14760670) Homepage
    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 down in price, and are now at a point where they may cost a little more (45+VAT vs 23 inc VAT) the convenience may soon start to outweigh the savings.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.