The AP reports that Microsoft has entered a deal with MCI to offer a service early next year that lets customers place calls from their personal computers to regular phones.
However, the service permits only outbound calls at first. Yahoo and America Online allow instant messaging users to receive calls from conventional phones as well as to call out.
Microsoft and MCI’s new service, called “MCI Web Calling for Windows Live Call,” will allow users of MSN Messenger, Microsoft’s IM service, to call land lines or cell phones. Microsoft said it was working to add additional capabilities, including inbound calls.
Low-cost Internet phone providers like Skype (acquired by eBay in October) give away software that lets people talk for free over the Internet using computers and microphones.