Ah, the sweet feeling of deja vu. It seems every tech giant is announcing its own voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) initiatives these days. Tuesday, Motley Fool Inside Value pick Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) joined the crowd.

The tech giant will team up with MCI (NASDAQ:MCIP) to let MSN Messenger users place voice calls from their PCs to regular phones for the low price of 2.3 cents per minute -- a fee that undercuts MCI's lowest traditional rates. At present, 10,000 users are testing the new service; the testing ranks are expected to expand within months, and the service should be launched worldwide to MSN subscribers within a year.

In my humble opinion, announcements like this are getting just a wee bit boring. Many of us already knew that Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) America Online unit has been souping up its AIM chat service to include voice capabilities and many more features, intent on keeping its lead in the messaging space. Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) planning to get in on the game with Google Talk, Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) recently made some noise in this arena, and Sony (NYSE:SNE) wants in as well. And always one of the most buzzed-about names in the biz at the moment, eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) new subsidiary Skype. All of these services are being offered either free or for a nominal rate.

With all that competition, it's no surprise that Microsoft would add VoIP to its own messenger service. When technologies like VoIP get popular, there comes a point where any of the providers who don't provide such a service look asleep at the wheel. The rise of cell phones has already seemed to signal that traditional telephones might become anachronisms. The rapid rise of VoIP suggests that telephones' obsolescence might come sooner than most of us thought. Faced with so many competitive challenges, traditional telcos like MCI may be eyeing the VoIP market enviously. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

eBay and Time Warner are both Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. To see what other companies David and Tom Gardner have recommended since April 2002 -- and to see the very latest picks -- take a 30-day free trial by clicking here .

Fools, now is the time to open your hearts and wallets to worthy causes! Please support our five Foolish charities at www.foolanthropy.com.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.