MCI's Web conferencing deal with Microsoft is just the beginning of a move to let users make PCs into phones, MCI head Michael Capellas said in a keynote address at the Networld+Interop conference in Las Vegas.

"This is where it starts. But at the end of the day, we will completely embed telephony into the desktop with full streaming audio and video capabilities," Capellas said at the end of the presentation, which included a description - and a failed demonstration - of the service. Capellas, taking the glitch in stride, blamed a poor local network connection and the inevitability of problems when it's time to show off a new technology.

The companies will jointly develop and market systems for communication and collaboration using Microsoft Office Live Meeting that will let Windows users easily share documents with other users live over a network, starting from any point in an application. For example, by clicking a button, a user who gets a Microsoft Word document in an Outlook e-mail message can start sharing that document live with the group that was copied on the e-mail.

The partnership reflects a larger vision of convergence of all types of content and communications on a single IP infrastructure, Capellas said. The complexity of making this happen can be hidden from not only end users but also content and application developers, he said.

"It's sort of like a duck. There are a lot of feet paddling under there that you don't see. But because it's all IP-based, there's no change to the network topology," Capellas said of the collaboration service. Likewise, emerging Web services specifications mean that applications can be developed without regard to what kind of device they will run on, he said.

The service, called MCI Net Conferencing powered by Microsoft Office Live Meeting, is available now and is aimed at small businesses as well as large enterprises, Capellas said in a press briefing after the keynote. It will cut costs for small businesses and reduce the major IT support requirement that many collaboration systems carry today, he claimed. For most users, the only required step will be a software download to their PCs, he said.

MCI will continue to offer and support its existing WebEx service for the foreseeable future, according to MCI.