The Incredible importance of Instant Message clients


Spring VoN 2004 is almost over, and after walking the conference floor, I am convinced about two things – there is too much hype around the technology. Secondly, the Instant Message clients are becoming incredibly important and will be the eventual winners in the VoIP sweepstakes. This epiphany came standing at the Microsoft booth. The Barons of Redmond have finally realized that the MSN Instant Messaging software is the stealth Softphone client on every desktop. Ralph Poole posted this in comments, and he does a good job of explaining the Microsoft strategy.

They have created the backend infrastructure elements, they have nurtured a number of vendors who have created VoIP applications, and Messenger is the required platform for VoIP on the desktop. I think that their strategy has been well executed up to now.

This is where I say, Skype who? As Aswath explained earlier Skype, in order to offer premium services will have to pretty much build a network infrastructure to drop and pick calls from the PSTN network. I think Microsofties will convince a lot of cable companies, phone companies and wireless carriers to play ball. Their argument: hey we will drop calls on your network which means usage of the network. Carriers can use a sales pitch that goes something like this: For $9.95 you can make unlimited phone calls to all your friends on MSN. All incoming calls free. I think you get what I am getting at.

Why would the carriers play ball? Well many of them have taken the Microsoft cash! (Read my take on Microsoft’s telecom strategy.)

I think AOL will finally figure this out – sooner or later. I think between ICQ and AOL IM, Time Warner (my employer) is sitting on a huge goldmine and with some simple upgrades can turn these clients into Skype-killas. Apple’s IChat is another example of a client waiting to become a phone interface.

Armed with just a microphone and a 56K modem Internet connection, you and your buddies can talk to each other with zero long distance charges, no matter how far apart you are. In fact, iChat AV is better than a telephone, since you can quickly see if your buddies are available, away or doing something else. Custom status messages make it a snap for you to effortlessly convey just the right message to your buddies. The result: no more games of phone tag and no need to leave a message.

The greatest advantage of these IM clients is that they are already sitting on our desktops, have been built for an IP-everywhere world, and are one upgrade away from becoming phones. (The real magic needs to happen at the back end!) We should start the clock ticking on Skype!


Luca - Pandemia

Why are You so negative about Skype? They are in pole position till now and they introduced SkypeOut just a week ago with lot of satisfaction.

I don’t agree with your view :) till now

Symon Blomfield

Secure, enterprise class encrypted IM, capable of safely crossing firewalls, ability to build personal “presence” network for paying customers (even with scontact who not paying), no software required and integrated with VoIP through single desktop? Be our guests free on the IM. VoIP available in the next 10 days or so. VoIP to PSTN shortly afterwards. Enjoy.

craig doiron

What would it take for companies like Skype and Virbiage to compete with giants like Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo—on the IM/VoIP subject?

What would they need to bring to the table?


Many of the IM clients are already a phone. There have been stories that have claimed (without attribution of course) that Yahoo and the like are not advertising phone capability because it consumes too much bandwidth at the server. So the real magic that is needed is implementing UDP hole punching mechanism.

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