VOIP Heating Up Big-Time

It looks like Microsoft finally figured out how to start using the assets it already has to leverage VOIP and video - Hotmail, and MSN Messenger users.

The company currently serves 205 million MSN instant messenger users and 26 million simultaneous messenger users, as well as 230 million Hotmail e-mail users, but only 9 percent of this online community currently uses VOIP (voice over IP) and video. A Microsoft rep says he believes that the new Windows Live communications services that Microsoft is deploying will allow this number to grow by as much as 20 percent during the next 12 months.

Now 230 million Hotmail users, even if you drop off the 50% or so who never use it, or just use it for the Passport login, is one hell of a lot of potential customer base. The new Windows Live offering will allow users to set up voice calls over the Internet by simply clicking on a contact's name. You can already tell if they are online with MSN Messenger via the green "dot" next to their name.

I think Microsoft is starting to wake up to the fact that other companies (Google, Skype, etc.) are starting to eat their lunch, and if they don't start rocking and rolling, there won't be any lunch left the next time they get hungry....

However, Microsoft still needs to learn to be a lot more nimble in the Internet marketplace if it expects to capture the lion's share of the burgeoning new business opportunities in search and PPC contextual ad sales. This stuff has been around for a long time now, and MS is just now getting to the point where they have started realizing they need to ramp up MSN Search and their new AdCenter product if they ever expect to catch up.

Additionally, Microsoft isn't making friends with developers by continually changing product names. I enjoy working with MS technologies and APIs, but I simply can't keep up with these moving targets. If you want to open up the API to the Windows Live IP phone stuff, I'd love to develop provider components for it. But right now, it looks like MCI and Verizon are the only two players there will ever be.

And you know what? I say, that's not developer-friendly at all.

Just my 2 cents.