Will Microsoft suck the spark out of Skype?
By now, you've heard the news: Microsoft is buying Skype in an $8.5 billion deal, the largest ever acquisition for the mammoth maker of the Windows franchise.
Skype was owned by eBay and a bunch of other investors, but eBay never really realized Skype's potential. Skype's got 600+ million users worldwide (that's about the same size as Facebook, folks), but it's never quite figured out how to make money.
Microsoft probably thinks it needs Skype to be a contender in the VOIP market, and getting all those loyal users helps. People may often complain about Skype, but many appreciate it because it's free and cheap -- lots of bang for little or no buck.
So now, the big question is: what will Microsoft actually DO with Skype. Will it go the way of the Flip cam, whose business was bought by Cisco and now faces a shutdown? Will Microsoft try to integrate Skype into its suite of Office products -- and is that even technology possible? [Update: ReadWriteWeb reports that that's exactly what Skype/Microsoft plans to do.] The Guardian's Charles Arthur thinks it won't pay off for Microsoft. Many seem to be skeptical that Microsoft can generate value -- and profits -- from the deal.
I, for one, think Microsoft can find some interesting synergies and integrations with the Microsoft Kinect and the Xbox, and Skype. And don't forget, Microsoft is now a major partner with Nokia, and could make Skype a major player on smartphones, though it has to be sensitive with the mobile carriers.
This may be a minor quibble, but I also think Microsoft can do a better job of (re)designing Skype's user interface, which right now is mediocre at best for both PC and Mac platforms. It's kind of nightmare, frankly.
So, no, I don't think Microsoft suck the spark out of Skype. I'm interested to see in which direction Microsoft takes the platform.
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