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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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  • the hard part? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ChrisGilliard ( 913445 ) <christopher DOT ... AT gmail DOT 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Outgoogling Google (Score:1, Interesting)

    by spectrumCoder ( 944322 ) on Monday February 20, 2006 @07:47AM (#14760095) Homepage
    Sounds to me like they're trying to outgoogle Google. Google has beaten Microsoft in many product areas because most of what it produces is useful, well designed and free, whereas most of Microsoft comes up with is inaccessible, bloated and often expensive.

    Sounds like Microsoft wants to take a leaf out of Google's book. If Google didn't exist Microsoft would be charging a subscription for this.
  • 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 [] (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.
  • Re:Anti-competitive? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheNetAvenger ( 624455 ) on Monday February 20, 2006 @08:01AM (#14760155)
    Well I'm thinking of the MS strategy here, whos to stop them from charging in the future?

    Customers, competition... Just becuase it is a new model, don't mean it won't be successful for others as well.

    Besides, we all knew it was going to get to this point eventually. Phone would be like Cable, pay flat fee, and watch as much TV as you want. It has been getting closer and closer, and with technology easing the bandwidth and traffic problems of the past, should be a normal thing.

    Besides, A) Microsoft wants to sell Windows Based devices & B) Maybe they realize it will actually help or improve the consumer market at the same time it helps them. What is wrong with a win win, even if they lose money investing in the technology initially.

  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Monday February 20, 2006 @08:55AM (#14760330)
    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 do it will be crippled in some way. They are not alone to do this. All the major phone networks will cripple any feature which allows you to bypass their pricing structure.

    Therefore the only other possible way I can see this working is if you (an individual or a business) bought some special MS enabled, GSM phone handsets at full cost (since there would be no subsidy) and then set about to use it in wi-fi mode around the office (and equipped hotels, conf centers) and GSM mode elsewhere. This seems highly implausible to say the least. Wi-fi & VOIP isn't anywhere remotely as reliable or tolerant as a regular cell phone even when you're standing right beside the access point.

  • 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.
  • 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 duffer_01 ( 184844 ) on Monday February 20, 2006 @09:55AM (#14760572) Homepage
    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 gyepi ( 891047 ) on Monday February 20, 2006 @11:12AM (#14760967) Homepage
    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.

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