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Microsoft Goes Live at Retail

Redmond, Wash. — Microsoft will throw its marketing muscle behind its Windows Live PC VoIP and messaging platform with a new retail endcap 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 8×8 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.