happygeek 2,411 Most Valuable Poster Team Colleague Featured Poster

AOL has announced its AIM Phoneline Developer Initiative that will allow voice application developers and device manufacturers to create new tools to extend the functionality of the still relatively new AIM Phoneline service. Examples of the new APIs for call personalization (or ringtones as mere non-marketing mortals might say), untethered devices (that will be cordless handsets then) and incoming call management (caller ID and the like) will be on show at booth 449 at the Fall 2006 VON conference, running from September 11th - 14th at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

A move that makes good sense if AOL wants to seriously challenge Skype in the emerging voice markets, not least because they are already playing catch up and then some. Sure, AOL has those 43 million AIM users, but that is less than half the number of Skype users. What is more, Skype have massive market penetration of the kind AOL could only once dream about. Analysts have suggested that Skype accounts for anywhere between 40 and 55 percent of all VoIP calls placed in North America, for example.

However, if the Open AIM Phoneline initiative can successfully build on that of the Open AIM program that has over 50,000 developers registered, then AOL could make some progress I guess. In order to try and kick-start this registration process, AOL has also announced the Open AIM Phoneline Developers’ Challenge. This simply asks developers to create the most innovative and useful applications to enhance the AIM Phoneline experience, by leveraging the Open AIM SDK.

Given the importance to AOL of the whole Phoneline developer thing succeeding, and the opportunity for such a competition to attract some real talent in this area, I am somewhat surprised to see that the first prize is just $3500 with the runner up bagging a measly $1000. Still, if you take these things more seriously than AOL apparently does, the competition runs from September 11th through November 30th, with the winner to be announced before January 31st 2007.

Me, if I were developing for this market, I’d probably concentrate on Skype…