Major instant messaging (IM) firms, including Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo, are missing out on a potentially lucrative opportunity by not buying voice over IP providers and integrating the technology into their own services, industry watchers have claimed.
ABI Research said today that, unexpected as it might seem, there is a "lot of logic" in a large IM company buying a VoIP business.
"Millions of people use the big IM services. Some use their voice capabilities, but the experience is pretty horrible," said Vamsi Sistla, director of broadband and residential entertainment technologies at ABI Research.
"You have to sit at a computer, use a microphone and speak loudly. And it goes over the public internet, so quality is poor and security is suspect.
"[IM companies] have an established presence, so why don't they buy out a Vonage, an Avaya or a Voiceglo, integrate the technology and start offering packages to existing and new subscribers? Isn't that a huge revenue opportunity for them?"
According to the analyst firm, major IM companies may be waiting for the VoIP market to shake out before eyeing the survivors, or they may just have other priorities.
"I'm not saying that Vonage or any of the others are ready for sale," explained Sistla. "But there would be definite benefits to such an acquisition."
The ABI Research report predicts that these benefits would flow both ways: the larger IM company would gain instant entry to a new market with tremendous growth potential, and the smaller VoIP provider would enjoy vastly increased resources, credibility and a huge existing customer base.
Consumers would benefit from the ability to integrate computer-based voice messaging with their landline phones.
With such a merger, the analyst said, emerging VoIP providers would be able to compete more effectively against the cable and traditional telcos looking at VoIP revenue.
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