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Engadget reports that Vonage finally started shipping the F1000, that WiFi phone from UTStarcom. The phone will only work in areas covered by public hot spots. Fee-based locations such as T-Mobile Wi-Fi available in your local Starbucks, will not work for this phone.

It took them freaking long enough, but we first played with way back in April that’ll let you make Vonage VoIP calls from pretty much any available wireless hotspot. The specs don’t appear to have changed much from the review unit we played with — it’s still rocking the 802.11b — but what we do have now is a price.

They’re selling the F1000 for $79.99 after a fifty dollar instant rebate.

Without a doubt there are better WiFi phones on the market, but the advantage here is that the F1000 is configured to work with Vonage right out of the box.

The F1000 features over five hours of talk time and 50 to 100 hours of standby. UTStarcom’s F1000G is an 802.11g version. This phone breaks ranks with the current crop of VoWLAN or WiSIP phones, which all use the older 802.11b WLAN standard.

In other VoP news, Microsoft and MCI are joining forces to offer PC-to-phone services. MCI Web Calling for Windows Live Call, will be available as part of the upcoming successor to Microsoft Messenger, called Windows Live Messenger, the companies said in a statement.

The deal will challenge rival Skype. Like SkypeOut, users of the Microsoft-MCI service will pay a fee to make VoIP calls from their PCs to phones. Users will have to sign up for a subscription to the service. Users will receive one free hour of calls and pay rates starting from 2.3 cents per minute to phones in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Western Europe during the beta-testing period, the statement said. Final rates for the service will be announced in 2006.

Yahoo will offer penny-a-minute calling next year, says Om Malik. SIPphone has a 1 cent per minute calls anywhere in the US. Mac users can use the Gizmo Project client to make outbound calls. Trying to outdo Yahoo (which is offering penny-a-minute calls as a promotion), SIPphone is going to make 1 cent/minute calls a standard rate for PC-to-PSTN calls says Malik.

Microsoft and Yahoo will link up their free instant messaging services to create a combined community of 275 million users, the companies announced in October. The deal, the first major alliance between two of the Web’s main providers of instant messaging, will allow users of Microsoft’s MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger to swap instantaneous text messages with each other. Up to now, such interoperability has been restricted to users within each service. The companies said they expect to have the service up and and running by next June.

Meanwhile, Google Talk, Google’s messaging and VOIP application, can be Video enabled with a plug-in from Festoon. Festoon also has the most popular video plug-in for Skype with more than 2.75 million downloads.

AOL, a unit of Time Warner, is currently the instant messaging market leader with AIM which has a share of 56 percent. Microsoft’s MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk, Google’s messaging and VOIP application, are the big voice enabled Voip messaging players.

Of course you need a computer to play. Maybe one of those $100 “gadgets” will work.

Microsoft’s MSN, Yahoo, Google and AOL earn advertising dollars on their service.

Jeff Pulver’s Blog adds:

Well, I don’t usually like to be seen as crying sour grapes, but I think I have to cry at least a few tears, not just for myself, but for the IP-based communications industry. I bemoan our lack of vision, our lack of creativity, and our failure to recognize that voice really is just an application, that will be offered for free some day soon, and apparently sooner than many companies currently think.

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