In a competitive realignment of the heated Internet industry, Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. are expected to announce Wednesday that consumers using their free communications services — including instant messaging and computer-to-computer voice calling — will be able to communicate directly with each other for the first time, say people familiar with the matter. he expected linkup of Microsoft’s and Yahoo’s communications services would immediately challenge the leading instant-messaging market share of Time Warner Inc.’s America Online unit. AOL has a 56% market share world-wide, according to research firm Radicati Group Inc. It has long resisted letting users of other instant-messaging services connect with its own. A combined Yahoo and Microsoft could command 44% of the global instant-messaging market, according to Radicati.
What does this mean, if anything, for the talks that have been ongoing with AOL? Perhaps nothing. AOL still has valuable content, and Microsoft still has a more richly developed platform.
As Andy speculated, it may be the beginnings of the first large, interoperable SIP networks for voice. When I visited MSN 18 months ago, then architect Peter Ford told me that MSN Messenger was moving toward SIP, but it would be a gradual process. IF AOL were to also join the party, there would be a market of nearly 100 million voice enabled IM users — more than Skype.