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Wednesday, December 2 12:00 AM ET

Microsoft Readying Bing Ring as Competitor to Google Voice

By Brian Briggs follow me on Twitter.
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Redmond, WA - Microsoft announced a new product called Bing Ring, which would be Microsoft's answer to Google Voice, would become available in a limited beta version in January.

If you're unfamiliar with these kinds of services here's the basic gist. A customer signs up for the service and receives a "Bing Ring" number. This number can be set up to ring any number of land line or mobile phone numbers of the customer. Incoming numbers can be sent to voice mail or blocked altogether using filters on the Bing Ring home page. While these features to can be found in Google Voice, Bing Ring will have some uniquely Microsoft features to set it apart.

Voice mail messages will only be playable on Bing Ring Anywhere capable phones.

Bing Ring product manager, Abel Nelson explained, "We want to protect users privacy, and the best way to do that is it encrypt the messages with Bing Ring Anywhere DRM. They can choose to share their message with up to three users, or burn them to a CD if they choose."

When the beta period ends, Microsoft will offer Bing Ring at different levels of service. For $20 a month you can get Bing Ring Starter Edition, which allows three incoming calls a month. At $60 a month you can get Bing Ring Home Edition, which allows forwarding for up to three numbers and most of the basic features. For Bing Ring Ultimate Edition, which includes all the bells and whistles, you'll have to pony up $75 a month.

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In contrast Google Voice is free.

Nelson said that Microsoft's "superior feature set" will make users flock to the Bing Ring service. "What other service will make all your phone calls searchable on Bing? Which other service allows you to choose any Windows sound as your ring tone? Google Voice? I don't think so."

Microsoft shares were down on the news.

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