The bolded part above is interesting. It sounds exactly like Jajah, which is also what my source stated on Friday. It's unclear if they charge a fee for when you bridge two PSTN numbers. Considering Jajah offers free calls globally for bridged numbers, it would seem logical that AOL would also have to offer this for free in order to be competitive with Jajah.
So is this just another "me too" product or will AOL's huge base of AIM users give it the advantage it needs to finally crack into the VoIP space? Hard to say. It really depends on how easy it to use, how much it costs, and what is the business model. Certainly, if you already have AIM installed it's a lot easier than downloading a Jajah client or going to Jajah's website to initiate a phone call. But if you have to pay or listen to an advertisement then that will turn off users. If I find some time today I'll download AIM and try it. If anyone had tried it already or has AIM installed, try it and let me know how it goes.
And speaking of business models, this reminds me that I need to contact Jajah's Frederik Hermann and ask him what their business model is considering they offer free calls (with no ads either). Could be a loss leader to capture market share for now and then switch over to paid or ads, but that will probably just let someone else step in and offer free calls.
Jajah does offer paid services, but considering global calls (to many countries) are free when both call participants are registered as JAJAH users and the call was initiated on JAJAH Web, I would assume the vast majority of calls made on Jajah's network are "free" calls - but maybe not. But for these free calls, Jajah has to foot the bill.
Lastly, I'm curious if AOL built this or if they are OEMing it - perhaps from Jajah themselves!
Update: 5 min later
Looks like AOL is charging to bridge two numbers. This from AOL Call Out's website:
...go to your AIM Call Out dashboard, key in your number and the phone number of your friend. Your phone will ring and connect you to your friend’s phone. For Web Connect calls you’ll pay the rate for your friend’s country as well as your own. Before you dial, we’ll show you the total per minute rate for the call. I know… it sounds like it would be costly, but just compare!
Ok, showing how much the call WILL cost in the GUI is a neat idea, but remember what I said above? "it would seem logical that AOL would also have to offer this for free in order to be competitive with Jajah." I guess that would make AOL illogical. Reminds me of Spock in a few famous chess playing episodes:
Spock: Your illogical approach to chess does have its advantages on occasion, Captain.
Kirk: I prefer to call it inspired.
Spock: As you wish.
From Court Martial episode:
McCoy (on finding Spock playing chess while Captain Kirk is on trial for negligence):
"Mr. Spock, you're the most cold-blooded man I've ever known."
Spock: "Why, thank you, Doctor."
Trek trivia: Star Trek with its interesting take on logic vs. emotion postulated that Kirk's intuition beats Spock's logical style. In the two chess games we see them play against each other (Where No Man Has Gone Before, Charlie X) Spock loses both chess matches, and attributes his defeat to Kirk's illogical playing style.