Microsoft and Skype: Integration, Sure. Interoperability? Not So Much

Loraine Lawson
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Microsoft recently outlined its plans for Skype, and not surprisingly, it's all about integration with other Microsoft offerings.


What did strike me, for some reason, is the scope. Obviously, you'd predict that Microsoft would want to use Skype's IM, video chat and IP telephony services for its business solutions. But Microsoft CFO Peter Klein this week said it will also be used to unite Microsoft's consumer products.


"Skype extends that across all of our assets, whether it's with Lync in the enterprise, or with Xbox Live. It's something that really ties together all of our devices," Klein told the audience at the Goldman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference.


Often, when you talk about integration, it boils down to sharing data. Microsoft points out that if you look at its products, the unifying, fundamental experience across devices is communications. Obviously, the $8.5 million acquisition of Skype enables that on many levels.


But when you're talking about such far-reaching integration, it raises other concerns - specifically, will this be Microsoft's way of locking in businesses to its own solution.


Videoconferencing and telephony competitor Cisco seems to think that's the case. Cisco is appealing the European Commission's approval of the Skype acquisition, saying Skype's platform doesn't interoperate with other vendors' video communication systems. The appeal also pointed to Microsoft's decision to integrate Skype exclusively with its Lync unified communications platform.


In other words, while Microsoft says the deal is all about communication integration, Ciscos says the long-term impact will be to reduce interoperability. It's funny how that works, isn't it?


Cisco wants the EC to force Skype to use the H.264 video codec or the SIP (session initiation protocol) standards used by other videoconferencing vendors, according to MacWorld.


If Skype and Microsoft don't use those standards, then anyone on another platform would have to use a gateway to call Microsoft-Skype systems, according to the article. But it's important to remember this isn't just about locking in Microsoft's products. Cisco points out it would also lock in Skype's current 700 million users.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 28, 2012 2:37 PM Jennifer Dunn Jennifer Dunn  says:
A new survey out shows that 77% of likely U.S. voters want video calling to be as easy as making a phone call and 83 percent (67 percent strongly) want Skype to be interoperable with other video technologies. More info here: http://newsroom.cisco.com/release/1004384 Reply

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