updated 10:55 am EDT, Fri May 30, 2008
Microsoft has devised a strategy that would largely eliminate the need to use phone numbers for calling on cellphones, ZDNet says. Echoes would link a user's Windows Live Messenger contacts to a phone number through a cellular provider and would let cellphone users choose one of their IM contacts as the recipient; as information would be automatically linked between the two, users could place calls without ever knowing someone else's phone number, Microsoft claims. The information would be sent automatically to a phone's contact list without needing a dedicated instant messaging client.
Importantly, the technology would also intelligently bridge standards when trying to reach someone who is only available through a PC. A standard voice call would register as a voice chat in the Live Messenger client, while text messages would appear as SMS on the phone and as standard chats for the computer. For computer users, an active cellphone would always appear online and thus let them send both audio and text on their own.
The effort will begin with a phase known as Wave 1 that will launch in the summer with unspecific phone companies and a beta Live Messenger client. Successive waves will add unified entertainment and security services; it may also include a set of extra services that will spring from Microsoft's acquisition of Danger earlier this year.
To date, competitors such as AOL and Yahoo have yet to offer this kind of unified access, with integration normally limited to sending SMS messages from PCs to phones.