Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Operators not doomed by Microsoft's VoIP plans

Techworld.com reports that analysts think a mobile voice over IP (VoIP) client from Microsoft is no big deal after chief executive Steve Ballmer "announced a mobile version of his company's voice-capable business IM system, Microsoft Office Communicator, one week ago, at 3GSM."

According to Ballmer, "the voice-ready version of Communicator will allow users of the IM service, who have Wi-Fi capable phones, to sidestep the mobile networks and call each other over the Internet using Wi-Fi for access."

Dean Bubley at Disruptive Analysis didn't seem to impressed. he asked, "Is there a Symbian version? Are they doing it over 3G? Skype is doing 3G with Hutchison, and has a Symbian version. Before we get too excited about this, it looks like Microsoft is behind the curve."

Bubley added, "Microsoft now has a mobile VoIP client - to join the thirty-seven other Windows VoIP clients, from vendors like SipQuest, PCTel, Cicero and Skype. And these are ones that can switch between Wi-Fi and ordinary cellular services."

Bubley opined that "the main importance of the announcement is to show that mobile VoIP is now important enough for a sluggish brute like Microsoft to lurch aboard. He added, "The history of Microsoft has been to leave it up to third party developers, and then move in when it is important enough. It's instituionalised mobile VoIP."

He concluded that "It will be interesting to see whether Microsoft waits for a proper cellular solution to do voice over IP over 3G, or tries to pre-empt it. Will Microsoft see VoIP as something that should be done inside an operator controlled environment, or on top of naked SIP outside operator control?"