Windows Messenger adds calling feature –

Microsoft Corp. is expected to announce Thursday some new changes in store for its Windows Messenger applications, including one that enables users of the forthcoming Windows XP operating system to make phone calls from a PC to a telephone.

A provider of Web-based phone services, Dialpad Communications Inc., will announce in conjunction with Microsoft that it will be one of several IP telephony companies offering its services from within the new Windows operating system. The two-year-old startup has built an application with an interface that resembles a phone dialpad and allows users to make calls over the Internet using VoIP (Voice over IP) technology.

"It will give users the ability to do Voice over IP with Windows XP and Windows Messenger," said Martina Ehlers, senior director and general manager of premium products for Dialpad.

The availability of Dialpad's Internet phone service is part of a broader announcement Microsoft will make Thursday regarding its Windows Messenger application, a Microsoft spokesman confirmed Wednesday. When Windows XP becomes widely available on Oct. 25, the software maker is also planning to launch an upgrade to its Windows Messenger client, which combines text, voice and video chat in one application.

As part of the new functions, due later this month, when users conduct correspondence over Windows Messenger they will have the option of placing a PC-to-phone call, Ehlers said. The first time users opt to make such a call from the messaging application they will be offered several third-party service providers to choose from, including Dialpad.

Dialpad will offer three pre-paid plans for users, ranging from US$10 to $50, it said. The basic rate for calls is 2.9 cents per minute within the U.S. Rates for international calls vary, with calls to the U.K. starting at $0.05 per minute and to Mexico starting at $0.18 per minute.

The list of competing VoIP companies working with Microsoft in the new Windows Messenger, and the costs of their services, were not immediately available.

The announcement points to increasing adoption of the technology, which has been available from third-party service providers for some time now, as well as on earlier versions of Windows, said David Fraley, a principal analyst with Gartner Inc. Microsoft previously offered VoIP service through its Netmeeting product, a tool for collaborating through messaging and shared applications. Windows Messenger incorporates features from Netmeeting and MSN Messenger, Microsoft has said.

"I think Windows Messenger is an important step forward in making a ubiquitous multimedia client a reality," Fraley said.

Meanwhile, as Windows XP nears its official launch, Microsoft has begun announcing similar relationships with third-party providers of other services that have nudged their way into the Windows XP operating system.

Early this month, online storage company Xdrive Technologies Inc. announced that its fee-based service would be available to users through Windows XP. Xdrive's storage service allows users to save files of all types to servers connected to the Web and access those files from any computing device with a Web browser.

Dialpad, in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at +1-408-588-4688, or online at http:/ Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080, or online at

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