Notable VoIP Happenings

Google's well-publicized earnings announcement yesterday overshadowed another notable piece of news about the company. The San Jose Mercury News reported that Google is working with Florida-based VoIP Inc. to possibly add voice calling to its network of offerings, which can be seen as a step toward bolstering its search advertising with pay-per-phone-call.

Google currently offers PC-to-PC calling through its Google Talk IM client that was released in April. But adding PC to PSTN (land line) would bring it closer to click-to-call functionality, a key underpinning of a PPCall model. SEW reminds us that Google has been testing click-to-call since November.

Given that many small businesses prefer calls to clicks, this could be a powerful tool in leveraging the base of SME advertisers that already participate in its AdWords program and could appeal to the larger segment of SMEs that haven't been enticed by the promise of clicks. It could also be more disruptive to directory publishers whose businesses thrive on such SMEs.

BusinessWeek meanwhile reported today that Microsoft has a similar plan up its sleeve to integrate PC-to-PSTN calling to its e-mail and IM clients. Also notable is the possible VoIP integration into its Windows Live Expo classifieds service that hasn't officially launched yet.

From BusinessWeek:

It will allow people to find buyers and sellers who are connected, even if distantly, to their social network of IM buddies or e-mail friends. For example, a user could see if a pal or member of another friend’s social network has a sofa for sale.

Where VoIP comes in: In addition to e-mailing the sofa seller, the Live Expo user can lob a call directly from a PC. Currently in an internal trial, Expo will enable Microsoft to compete with classifieds services Google Base, currently in beta tests, and Craig’s List, one of whose investors is eBay.

Indeed, this could be similar to eBay's possible plan to integrate the VoIP platform of its recently acquired Skype to its auction and classifieds listings.

There are also mobile implications according to BusinessWeek:

Microsoft’s VoIP plans even reach beyond the PC. The company is also angling for a piece of the mobile-search pie. Though it involves tiny screens — consumers can use cell phones or personal digital assistants to search the Web — this market has huge potential. It’s expected to rise to $1.4 billion in 2010, from $90 million last year, according to consultancy Visiongain.

In other VoIP news, Om Malik reports that Time Warner (as announced in its quarterly earnings report) has added 246,000 VoIP subscribers for the fourth quarter and 880,000 for the entire year, which gives it a grand total of 1.1 million (this class of VoIP service doesn't involve an IM client or a computer at all, but rather a normal phone that is connected to a piece of hardware to make calls over the Internet. Competitors in this space include Verizon and Vonage). In a separate post, Om also provides some good stats on overall VoIP adoption and projections.

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