Windows Live Messenger: Skype Killer?

Microsoft Windows Live Messenger came out of beta yesterday to join a voice-enabled IM landscape that’s already strewn with AOL, Yahoo and Google. But Skype isn’t worried.

Like Skype, Microsoft’s offering lets people make PC-to-phone calls using cordless phones from Motorola, Philips and Uniden America. The phones employ the Windows Live Messenger contact lists.

According to a statement, Messenger Live customers can sign up for Verizon’s Web Calling service. Within the IM client, you can purchase prepaid blocks of time that let you call more than 220 countries at rates starting at two cents per minute.

Along with VoIP, the also IM client improved its collaboration and sharing tools. Windows Live Contacts notifies you whenever contact information, such as e-mail address or phone number, changes. And the new Sharing Folders feature allows lets you distribute files simply by dropping an item on a name in the contact list.

But despite the improvements, the upgrade falls short of the goal, according to one analyst. “The VoIP piece seems to be the most ‘me-too’ feature,” said Joe Laszlo, analyst with JupiterResearch.

Even though Messenger claims more than 240 million users, Microsoft’s IM is unlikely to threaten Skype, Laszlo said. Some people even say Microsoft and its competitors want what Skype has. “Everyone would like to take a piece of the Skype pie,” said Will Stofega, VoIP research manager at IDC.

But Microsoft denied it is targeting Skype. “We develop our services for our customers, not our competitors,” said a company spokesperson. Nevertheless, Laszlo doesn’t see a radical shift in the IM landscape.

According to JupiterResearch, Windows Messenger is third in most-installed IM applications behind AOL and Yahoo. And Yahoo had its own IM announcement yesterday, revealing a new beta version of Yahoo Messenger with Voice, which originally launched last year.

The company introduced more than 20 plug-ins allowing third-party developers to create miniature applications for searching online, collaborating with friends and finding maps. One plug-in lets you monitor eBay auctions &#151 eBay and Yahoo recently inked a cross-promotion e-commerce deal.

Several plug-ins let you view other people’s calendars, as well as search Yahoo Local and Yahoo Maps, while some are aimed at collaboration, including planning events and viewing blogs.

But although Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo (and to some extent Google) have huge user bases, “they haven’t had success making money off them,” Laszlo said, adding that they all look at the VoIP arena as a way to monetize IM. But just as IM players feel the need to keep abreast of any new features offered by their competitors, Microsoft and others are watching Skype, said Laszlo.

Adapted from

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