Microsoft roars into VOIP market

By Matthew Broersma, Techworld.com |  Networking

Microsoft is accelerating its business IP telephony plans with the acquisition of software firm media-streams.com.

The move follows similar acquisitions by Microsoft and its competitors in the consumer market, and bolsters a major strategic shift by Microsoft into online services -- the so-called "Live Software" program introduced earlier this week.

Microsoft and several other large IT players announced significant Voice over IP (VOIP) plans aimed at consumers over the summer. The string of deals showed that big companies such as AOL, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and eBay believe consumer VOIP is a technology whose time has come.

Industry observers say the catalyst for this is Skype, purchased by eBay for nearly US$4 billion last month. Skype has quadrupled in size over the past year to 54 million users and adds 150,000 users per day, according to the company.

Microsoft's acquisition of Teleo in August was designed to add Skype-like services -- such as the ability to phone land-lines from a PC -- to MSN Messenger, Microsoft said. Yahoo has made a similar move in buying Dialpad, while Google recently launched Google Talk and AOL has announced its own VOIP service.

The purchase of media-streams.com takes the trend in a new direction, with applications designed specifically for businesses, Microsoft said. The company's technology will be integrated with Microsoft's corporate messaging products as well as the flagship Office suite.

Media-streams.com's software could allow users to launch an IP voice call directly from an e-mail in Outlook, for example, and to handle more advanced functions such as conferencing.

"We are in lock-step with Microsoft

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