Microsoft drops Verizon for its Windows Live Messenger VOIP services

Verizon Web Calling has powered the VOIP integration in Windows Live Messenger since the public beta of v8 early last year, though the service is at best is described as basic. However last week users of Web Calling received an email from Verizon customer services, informing them that the joint service is to be terminated next year. Whether Microsoft partners with another telecoms company or they instead opt to provide their own voice platform hasn’t been confirmed, though we’ve heard that it may be the latter.

So what does this change mean for Microsoft’s voice and video aspirations? Well with the launch of Windows Live Messenger 8.5 this week, extending their VOIP offerings via a different platform would be a great addition to a new client version. The existing outbound-only calling is just not enough for users that prefer voice over text and so to remain competitive the new in-house service would need to provide an inbound option just for starters. Yahoo! has offered users a choice of USA or UK phone numbers for about 2 years now, which is incredibly convenient for those who travel globally and don’t want to have multiple contact numbers, or those who want to speak to their international friends without paying premium rates.

Then there are the Windows Live cordless phones that Microsoft announced at CES 2006 and promoted heavily last year. Obviously without numbers its difficult to estimate the takeup of those, however it seems reasonable to believe that sales and impact on the market will have been less than desired. Comparing them to the LifeCams which are now on their 2nd generation, the last phone to be discussed was the Motorola device back in August 2006. This comes back to the poor VOIP offerings currently available and specifically the lack of features; the phone hardware devices just seem to have been pushed out too early.

Existing users of the Verizon WebCalling service are able to claim back any unused funds and will be alerted in the future once a final end date for the service has been agreed.

For reference here’s the email as sent by Verizon:

Dear Verizon Web Calling Customer,

We’re writing to inform you that Verizon plans to discontinue Web Calling, a joint offering with Windows Live Messenger, on or before August 31, 2008.  The exact date will be provided in a subsequent notice that you will receive at least 90 days before the final discontinuance of the product.

You may continue to use and recharge your Web Calling Account until Web Calling is discontinued. You may also request a refund of the remaining funds in your account at any time by logging into your Online Account Manager account and e-mailing Customer Service. The other features of Windows Live Messenger will not be impacted by the withdrawal of Web Calling.

Windows Live is currently working on a successor to Verizon Web Calling.  Details of that offer will be communicated when they are available.

Any monies remaining on your account will be refunded to you when Web Calling is discontinued.

Thank you for your support of Verizon Web Calling.

Sincerely,

Verizon Web Calling Customer Service