By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Microsoft will throw its marketing muscle behind its Windows Live PC VoIP and messaging platform with a new retail end-cap showcasing hardware designed for its revamped communications service.
Starting this month, over 1,200 Best Buy, Circuit City and CompUSA stores will display endcaps featuring Windows Live compatible hardware from Plantronics, Uniden and Microsoft's own branded-line of communications products.
Plantronics will offer its Audio 350 PC headset, Uniden its dual-mode WIN 1200 cordless phone, and Microsoft will demonstrate its LifeCam line of Web cameras.
The move marks an expanded push by PC-based VoIP services into retail. Late last year, Skype and RadioShack announced a partnership to promote Skype-certified hardware in Radioshack stores. Unlike services from Vonage and 8x8 which position themselves as home phone replacements, services such as Windows Live and Skype piggyback on the PC and cannot provide E911 dialing. Yet they boast an enormous user base. Microsoft claims 240 million registered users (globally) for its Live service while Skype claims over 100 million registered users worldwide.
According to a CompUSA spokesperson, the end-cap is designed to showcase VoIP's “eco-system” and how it can “enhance consumers' conversation experience.” While people don't' typically come to CompUSA shopping for a new phone line, the spokesperson said, they are attracted to VoIP's cost-savings and integration with other devices such as phones and cameras.
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