AOL announced last week that they will offer consumers the ability to initiate group conference calls using standard telephone lines from within the AOL Instant Messenger Interface. This service will be delivered in partnership with Lightbridge using their GroupTalk service.
Interesting that AOL would launch a standard telephone based service given all the hype surrounding VoIP these days. The truth is however, that VoIP to the desktop (though clients such as AIM) is still not quite ready for prime-time. Even with the proliferation of broadband, a significant majority of AOL users still connect at dial-up speed putting VoIP well beyond their reach. AOL is hardly alone though, other popular web services such as WebEx and Microsoft’s Live Meeting also continue to rely on telephone lines for the voice portions of their interactive web conferencing services.
It seems likely that for at least the next two years this hybrid strategy of “slides and text on the PC, voice on the phone” will dominate. We do expect that the web conferencing service providers will continue to pioneer VoIP to the PC desktop blazing a trail that many will follow.