How smoothly and successfully Skype is introduced will go a long way to determining the wisdom of Microsoft’s acquisition of the company last year. A second and related question is how gracefully Skype can cross the Rubicon to become a business-oriented platform. Of course, businesses already widely use Skype on an ad hoc basis. Formalizing that use will go a long way to ensuring the service’s future.
The use of Skype for business tracks with the general melding of business and personal communications platforms and technologies. The bottom line is pretty simple: For the most part, the technical barriers between the use of technology for the consumer and business sectors have disappeared. The lineages of business and consumer platforms are different, but the technology, as it stands today, does not limit tools to one camp or the other.
In the near term, the business and consumer elements of IM will be segregated between Skype and Lync. That, according to CNET’s Mary Jo Foley, won’t last long. In this paragraph of her piece on the changeover from Windows Live Messenger to Skype, she quotes a Skype blog post announcing the transition. The handwriting for business is on the wall, she writes:
“We will retire Messenger in all countries worldwide in the first quarter of 2013 (with the exception of mainland China where Messenger will continue to be available),” according to the post. By that time, consumers who want to use instant messaging will have no choice but to use Skype for that. (Business instant messaging will still be largely the province of Microsoft’s Lync, though Lync-Skype federation is coming at some point.)
The movement of Skype into the forefront of business is broader than an eventual close relationship with Skype. At Small Business Trends, Annie Pilon discusses new business tools included in Skype in the Workplace. Essentially, the idea is to create a small business community upon the huge existing base of Skype personal and business users. The idea of Skype in the Workspace is to more efficiently and thoroughly build on that base. More details are available from Skype.
Whether the acquisition of Skype by Microsoft was prescient or lucky is immaterial. The years ahead will present a golden opportunity to the company and its new division. It is up to Microsoft to make it succeed.