Late Monday, Microsoft and MCI (a leading telephone service provider) announced that they are teaming up to link Microsoft's upcoming instant messaging (IM) client Windows Live Messenger with landline and mobile phone service. The deal lets Windows Live Messenger users place PC-to-phone calls around the globe for as little as $0.023 a minute, which is less expensive than MCI's current international phone rates. The service is called MCI Web Calling for Windows Live Call and it utilizes VoIP technology, Microsoft says.
"Our new Windows Live PC-to-phone voice feature ... provides the bridge between PCs and phones with high-quality voice services that enable people to communicate more easily, conveniently, and inexpensively," says Microsoft Corporate Vice President Blake Irving. "Our customers are going to love this."
Using MCI Web Calling for Windows Live Call, Windows Live Messenger customers will eventually be able to place phone calls to more than 220 countries around the world. Rates start at just $0.023 per minute for calls made to the US, Canada, and most of Western Europe during the beta time period. Customers will also be able to purchase prepaid calling cards in $5, $10, and $15 increments. Final pricing for the service will be established at a later date. Microsoft expects to ship the final version of Windows Live Messenger, which will replace MSN Messenger, sometime in 2006.
MCI Web Calling for Windows Live Call will initially be available as part of a limited beta of Windows Live Messenger in the US. Microsoft says that it will expand the service to customers in France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom in the coming weeks. For the first phase of the service, users will be able to create only outbound calls. Rivals such as Yahoo! and AOL offer IM-based PC-to-phone services that also allow for incoming phone calls.