Saturday, July 01, 2006

Free Phone Calls From WLLpbVEB

As if traffic wasn't cool enough... from Dare Obasanjo's blog, I noticed there's another new feature of WLLpbVEB*: Free Phone Calls (to businesses).

You simply click on the "Call" link, enter your phone number if it's your first time using the feature, and WLLpbVEB rings both you and the business you're calling.

Of course, since most mobile phones in the US charge the same for incoming and outgoing calls, I'm not exactly getting fired up over the 'free' part. But the convenience of "Click-to-Call", and not having to switch contexts and dial numbers, is pretty neat.

I'd like to see them extend this to dial directly from your computer via Windows Live Messenger VOIP integration. Then I wouldn't have to switch contexts or use mobile phone minutes at all - I could just speak through the built-in microphone in my Thinkpad laptop. Messenger already has the calling feature - unfortunately it isn't free. I'm not sure why I would pay to make calls from Messenger when I already pay to make essentially unlimited calls from my mobile phone... but perhaps I'm just not in the target market?

Switching gears here, this makes so much sense from a business point of view for Microsoft. Microsoft has now inserted itself as a middle man in establishing these calls, connecting consumers with businesses - sort of like Google has successfully been doing with their online advertising services. Similar to what's happened with web advertising, if businesses start to see large numbers of customers funneled through this service, they'll be more likely to advertise on the service.

I think the real question is whether a significant number of users will use WLLpbVEB or the Click-to-Call service. Check out this Business Week article on how very few people actually use Google services other than Search, and ironically here, Maps.

Unfortunately, my first time trying the service connected me with a disconnected Microsoft product support number (the one listed in the image above). Guess it's time to go report a bug. :-)

* WLLpbVEB stands for Windows Live Local powered by Virtual Earth Beta - it just means so much more than something simple like "Google Maps"!

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