Lycos to enter 'Net phone fray

Lycos takes on Yahoo, Skype with the launch of its first VoIP application

Lycos plans to launch on Monday a VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) phone application, its first serious entry in years to the now red-hot market of Internet telephony.

Lycos Phone, which will compete directly with similar offerings from Yahoo and eBay's Skype unit, is based on technology from Axill Europe, whose Globe7 application Lycos is licensing.

The companies have entered intro a 3-year exclusive deal, during which Axill has agreed to not license Globe7 to any other major portal, including Yahoo, Google, Microsoft's MSN and Time Warner's America Online.

Lycos is confident that its Globe7-based service will distinguish itself from the pack through a collection of entertainment and interactive features that aim to complement its core Internet phone functionality, said Brian Kalinowski, Lycos' chief operating officer.

With Lycos Phone, the company wants to replicate a "living room" experience for users, by letting them engage in other activities while they chat, such as watching television, listening to music, conducting instant messaging sessions and surfing the Web, all within the phone application's interface.

To this end, Lycos Phone can be considered a "full-service media player" with integrated features such as streaming video IPTV, MP3 player, Web browser, proprietary IM (instant messaging) network, and, later, the Lycos Mail Webmail service, he said. It is necessary to pack these features within the interface because the time users spend in their VoIP applications has been and will continue to rise, he said.

"We wanted to provide something that went beyond a standard IP dialer. Lycos Phone is not only a one-stop shop application for communications, but also for consumption of media content," he said.

All calls made from a PC to a PC are free. Rates for calls made from a PC to an outside line, be it to a mobile or regular phone, vary by country. Lycos partnered with Verizon Communications for the telecommunications component of the service.

Users can also get a free U.S. telephone number to receive calls. To obtain one, they need to provide Lycos with their name, e-mail address and mailing address. This validation also makes them "gold" members and consequently eligible for special discounts and offers.

Lycos Phone will feature banner ads within the phone interface.

The application will be at http://www.lycos.globe7.com.

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