Microsoft announced Thursday morning an update to its Windows Messenger real-time communications client that will allow PC users to make phone calls from their computers, via participating service providers.
The update will be available Oct. 25 in Windows XP versions of Messenger. Messenger supports audio and videoconferencing, application sharing, online collaboration and instant messaging.
The new PC-to-phone calling options will be included in a downloadable update to the Windows Messenger feature within Windows XP. In addition, an update to the MSN Messenger client will enable this new PC-to-phone support for users of previous versions of Windows.
Consumers will be invited to download the update – which is less than 1 MB for Windows XP users – from the Web when they use their Windows or MSN Messenger client on or after Oct. 25, the official launch date for Windows XP. The update also will enable Windows XP users with Windows Messenger to make PC-to-PC voice calls to the more than 30 million MSN Messenger users as well as to other Windows Messenger users, Microsoft officials said.
Participating Internet telephony service providers include Callserve Communications, deltathree Inc., Dialpad Communications Inc., Net2Phone Inc. and Telus Corp. Customers will have to establish accounts with these service providers—based on their locations (Callserve is in the U.K. and Telus in Canada)—and will be able to track their current call account balances from within Messenger.
Of course, PC-to-phone calls are not new technology, nor does one need Windows Messenger to make such calls. But some service providers hope that Microsoft throwing its weight behind the technology will enable it to catch on among the general public.
"We believe that the inclusion of an easy-to-use PC-to-phone client in Windows XP will help move PC-based voice communication closer to the mainstream and will provide a technological building block for our next generation SIP [Session Initiation Protocol] applications," said Noam Bardin, CEO and President of deltathree, in a statement.