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May 10, 2011

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.

 


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:32 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Comments

It just seems to me that Facebook was a more natural - and better - fit for the product.

I love Skype. Hopefully MS will make it even better.

I don't think it's necessarily a case that Microsoft will actually degrade Skype (or, to paraphrase you, make it suck); I'm certain, however, that huge numbers of folks, whether or not they actually use/used Skype, will now insist that it's lousy simply because of its association with Microsoft. Microsoft is way up there as a "whipping boy" of things that people perceive that they have to use/etc. (along with home-town sports teams, commuter trains and transit, public education, etc.) where no matter what the actual quality of the product/service, people will complain about it.

Clearly, you are focusing on the entertainment aspects of Skype being acquired by Microsoft as opposed to it being a video-conferencing component that can be added to their corporate instant messaging and unified Inbox component (Office Communications Server).

That said, imagine the reach of Skype as a product within Windows as opposed to one you need to install separately. On some level, you are bringing easy video-conferencing to the masses. Now, imagine that on their mobile platform. In this aspect, as others have noted, this is a Facetime play.

Indeed. Pulling Skype tightly into Office/Outlook would be very awesome. I'd also like to see an MS app that integrates Skype with a note-taking tool (Word or something else) and built-in web browser. A killer app for journalists and others who want to talk to people, take notes and check the web all in one box. -gs

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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
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