Microsoft Corp and Yahoo Inc have begun a belated beta program that lets users of their respective instant messaging clients text each other. The companies now plan to enable VoIP interoperability between their platforms, and are also considering a mutual video-conferencing deal.
The IM beta enables nearly 350 million users with either the latest versions of Windows Live Messenger or Yahoo Messenger to text each other online, as well as view presence and availability status, and add contacts from each service.
The pairing was first announced in October and was slated for release during the second quarter. Microsoft’s Windows Live product manager Karin Muskopf said there was no specific technical snafu that delayed the release.
Muskopf and Yahoo spokesperson Terrell Karlsten said the agreement was non-exclusive and that both companies were open to interoperability opportunities with other instant messaging providers. Neither would provide details, but said each company was always having discussions with other industry players.
The teaming of Microsoft and Yahoo has been seen as a way to better compete against AOL and potentially even Google, which continues to broaden its communications reach.
Microsoft and Yahoo also are working on making interoperable the VoIP features of their respective IM services, which may potentially cut into the free PC-to-PC VoIP market, currently dominated by eBay-owned Skype Technologies SA.
Microsoft and Yahoo were definitely looking at different features down the road and voice is one that we’re very interested in, Muskopf said, and I think once we get this beta out the door, you’ll see things coming from us.
The text IM beta likely will end within a couple of months, and a final consumer version is due at least by the end of the year, Karlsten said.
At some future point, Microsoft and Yahoo may also team on video conferencing interoperability between their IM services. Absolutely, again another possibility we would look at, Muskopf said.
While both companies’ IM platforms are currently free services, Karlsten said Yahoo was always evaluating new ways to enhance and extend its services. She did not elaborate.