Microsoft's Acquisition of Skype May Not Matter

Wayne Rash
Microsoft's announcement that it was about to spend nearly $8 billion to purchase Skype, the global VoIP and video calling company, was met by a lot of surprise. Some are surprised that Microsoft paid so much. Others are surprised that Microsoft wants Skype at all. While this may have been a savvy move on the part of Microsoft, it also may not have been. A lot depends on what Microsoft plans to do with Skype once it owns it.

So far all that Microsoft is saying is that it plans to continue to support the platforms Skype currently supports, which includes a wide range of computer operating systems and mobile devices. But given that Skype's revenues aren't all that high, the next question is what else Microsoft has in mind. Some suggestions include a premium service that needs to be paid for. There have also been suggestions that Microsoft is doing this as a pre-emptive strike against Google, which has been offering services similar to Skype but is much smaller.

While some of these things may come to pass, I think the real plans for Skype are to integrate it into Microsoft Office. Microsoft currently has an instant messaging client for consumers, Windows Live Messenger, that already offers audio and video calling along with instant messaging. Microsoft has also launched Lync, an instant messaging tool that will support audio, video, desktop sharing and a number of other features as a part of its beta release of Office 365. So why would Microsoft need another audio and videoconferencing tool?

Perhaps it's because the audio and video in Skype works better than what's available with Messenger and Lync. Perhaps it requires less overhead to manage. While Microsoft hasn't been specific, it has indicated that the product will play a role in Microsoft Office, but exactly what role hasn't been made clear.

For corporate users, the most likely outcome is that you'll eventually get better conferencing than you have now. In addition, I don't think it would be surprising to see some of the Skype technology show up in Internet Explorer or in other Microsoft programs where some sort of conferencing could add a benefit that would help Microsoft get an edge over its competitors. Of course this is all speculation since Microsoft isn't saying, and isn't likely to say until the deal is complete.

On the other hand, Microsoft has made it clear that it intends to keep the current version of Skype running, which should be a great comfort to those who use it to stay in touch. These people range from troops in the field in Afghanistan and Iraq, to sailors on board Navy ships on long deployments. And of course the users include everyone else from people with long-distance romances to those who use it for distance learning. It's a valuable service for many people, and perhaps Microsoft has found a way to make it more valuable.

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Mar 25, 2012 1:03 AM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
have to think that the skype acquisition offers a way to introduce Microsoft Lync technology to those familiar with the skype name - use skype as the face and lync as the guts. Reply

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