R. Fink | Software domination is just a call away

The Packet Rat | Commentary: It seems like everyone in the software business wants to get into the phone business

Packet Rat

Michael Bechetti

It seems like everyone in the software business wants to get into the phone business these days.

Both Microsoft and MySpace announced new products Oct. 16 that put them into the voice-over-IP business ' though for slightly different audiences. The Rat is guessing that neither of those intended audiences include him.

'So, exactly when does our phone bill start coming with a Microsoft end-user license agreement printed on it?' he reflected, as he watched a remote webcast of Bill Gates showing off his company's Trojan horse for teledomination. Microsoft's great leap forward into the unified communications business was spearheaded by Office Communications Server 2007, a software package that turns a PC server into a private branch exchange.

Microsoft wants to eliminate the boundaries between its software and your telecom budget.

The new products are Microsoft's way of trying to attach itself to the growth of VOIP telephony like a...well, like a growth. 'As more and more of our communications and entertainment is transmitted over the Internet,' Gates wrote in a memo handed out at the launch event in San Francisco, 'thanks to e-mail, instant messaging, video conferencing, and the emergence of voice over Internet Protocol, Internet Protocol Television, and other protocols, a new wave of software-driven innovations will eliminate the boundaries between the various modes of communications we use throughout the day.'

'In other words, Microsoft wants to eliminate the boundaries between its software and your telecom budget,' the whiskered one translated for a department head he was lunching with. 'And replace those boundaries with new, Windows-powered reliability.'

For the most part, what seems like Microsoft's sudden lurch into voice and collaboration isn't really all that sudden. The company has been buying and building bits and pieces of collaboration and voice technology for quite some time ' anyone remember NetMeeting? And of course, the company snatched up Groove Networks a few years ago for its live collaboration technology and its chief executive officer, Ray Ozzie.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the babbling universe, MySpace announced a partnership with Skype, the soft-VOIP subsidiary of eBay that has thus far failed to shake the telecom world to its knees. MySpace is plugging Skype into its own instant-messaging service, putting thousands of teens who refuse to talk on phones a mouse-click away from talking to each other on their computers.

'I can't get my kids to talk on a real phone to me for more than five syllables,' the wirebiter whined to his wife. 'So, like, this is better somehow than typing 'kthanksbai LOL'?'

'At least this will get them to trim down their friends lists,' Mrs. Rat replied. 'Unless they all want to get calls from that guy Tom,' she snickered, referring to Tom Anderson, MySpace's co-founder and all MySpace users' 'first friend.'

'Well, at least then I'd be getting calls from someone,' the Rat sighed. 'The kids won't even friend me on MySpace ' I had to pose as a teenager to see what they have on their profiles.'

'Be careful about that,' his wife chided. 'Or the first Skype call you'll get will be from 'Dateline: NBC.' '

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