Blast from the past
The ability to use the personal computer as an "intelligent" phone has been viewed largely as a curiosity by the computer and telecommunications industries, not to mention by consumers. Internet telephony has mostly not been high quality, and conversations are frequently plagued with static and delays. It has also been difficult for computer telephone callers to find each other without inconvenient and sometimes costly third-party directory services.
That is likely to change rapidly as Microsoft's new software prepares to exploit the next generation of the Internet, offering computer-based telephony with better-quality voice than before and with more powerful features than the traditional phone.
FWIW this John Markoff article in the NYT was published June 12, 2001 -- on the launch of Windows XP (with Windows Messenger)