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Monday, February 20, 2006

Microsoft Develops Skype For Mobile Phones

Microsoft has developed a Skype-style free internet voice service for mobile phones that City analysts believe could wipe billions off the market value of operators such as Vodafone.

The service is included in a mobile version of Microsoft Office Communicator due to be released this year. It will take the form of a voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) application that allows Office users to make free voice calls over wi-fi enabled phones running Windows Mobile software. It uses the internet as a virtual phone network as well as accessing e-mail, PowerPoint and other Office applications.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer dropped his bombshell at the mobile operators’ annual 3GSM show in Barcelona last week. The significance of his remarks was missed because of his effusive and eccentric delivery.

Trying to downplay the havoc Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile will wreak on the mobile telecoms industry, Ballmer chose a topical Valentine’s Day theme for his announcement. “I love the mobile industry and I love our operator partners, and I want to have that message precede all we’re about to show,” Ballmer said in Barcelona. He went on to demonstrate how a mobile phone running Windows Mobile can be used to make a free voice call over the internet. Ballmer told the audience: “That was a VoIP call.”

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