Microsoft Buys Skype Rival
As if VOIP sector watchers didn't have enough to tax their brains at the moment, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) has added to the IP telephony frenzy by announcing the acquisition of privately held startup Teleo, which has developed VOIP technology very similar to that of Skype Technologies SA (see Microsoft Buys Teleo).
Financial details weren't disclosed.
The news follows hot on the heels of: last week's announcement of an online voice service from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG); talk that voice over broadband specialist Vonage Holdings Corp. is looking to cash in on its initial success; and wild estimations of Skype's value. (See Google Talks the Talk, Sources: Vonage Is Eyeing the Exits, and Readers Scoff at Skype Hype.)
It also follows Yahoo Inc.'s (Nasdaq: YHOO) acquisition of VOIP service provider Dialpad Communications Inc., announced in July (see Yahoo Enters VOIP Fray).
So what is Teleo? A very similar beast to Skype, in that it provides downloadable software that enables free, SIP-compatible Teleo-to-Teleo voice calls, and the ability to make calls to, and receive calls from, the PSTN from a PC. Earlier this year, VOIP industry commentator Irwin Lazar described Teleo as "Skype on steroids" and noted that Teleo's ability to integrate with Microsoft's Outlook and Internet Explorer applications, and the fact that each user is assigned a regular phone number, potentially make it an attractive option for business users. It also seems to have made it attractive to Microsoft.
Teleo offers its users the ability to route incoming calls to any phone, fixed or wireless, and includes a click-to-call function that allows users to make a call by right-clicking on phone numbers listed on Web pages.
However, Teleo is way behind Skype in terms of feature development -- for instance, it doesn't offer an instant messaging client. It also charges $4.95 per month, whereas using Skype is still free.
Teleo completed its beta testing in July and had wound down its service for further application developments and enhancements. Skype, meanwhile, is the P2P voice pioneer, with more than 50 million registered users and more than 2 million subscribers to its paid-for SkypeOut and SkypeIn services.
Microsoft isn't providing any detail about its future plans for Teleo, other than that it plans to integrate Teleo's capabilities into its MSN portal.
Skype founder Niklas Zennström had these comments in an email response to questions: "Internet giants are now looking to add voice services, recognizing the arrival of a global mass market in Internet voice. As the only pure-play global Internet communications company, Skype has been the trailblazer and just as we drove the Internet voice revolution, we are also driving the creation of a truly open Web... We believe consumers benefit from choice and competition, and delighting our rapidly-growing user base will help us maintain our strong position as the world leader."
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading
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