Can Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) be the voice of the people? Today, Microsoft said it's snapping up a company named Teleo, which will allow it to offer voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, to its users. What's different from previous attempts to crack into VoIP is that this company will allow Microsoft's users to speak with not only users on other computers but also people using regular phones.
The last several years have been chock full of VoIP hype, but within the last year or so, it's clear that this technology is indeed becoming commonplace. It's not just the fact that cable giants such as Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) offer voice services over their broadband connections. There are also the startups that are making a successful go of it -- consider Vonage, which recently filed for an IPO.
And, of course, seemingly out of nowhere, there's Skype, which already boasts 51 million registered users, and 2 million paying customers for its services. (Longtime Fool Rick Munarriz explored Skype -- and News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS ) apparent interest in it -- in-depth in this recent commentary.)
Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX ) America Online announced its intention to offer such services back in the spring; at the time, I felt maybe the company was spreading itself too thin and getting itself too far off base, although similar efforts by Yahoo!, Google (well, soon, at least, according to this article from Seth Jayson), and Microsoft, in particular dealing with voice chat using messaging programs, may make AOL's move look downright prescient.
Of course, to my way of thinking, the real story here seems to be the changing face of telecom and the continued threats posed to traditional telecom companies such as Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) , AT&T (NYSE: T ) , and SBC Communications (NYSE: SBC ) , all of which are scrambling to deal with increasing, encroaching competition from so many fronts. The Internet's days of disruptive innovation to a variety of industries are obviously far from over.
Alyce Lomaxdoes not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.