In the wake of today’s confirmed acquisition of Skype by Microsoft Corp., tech press, analysts and armchair quarterbacks alike have been busy speculating why Microsoft would buy Skype (and why it spent $8.5 billion to do so). While we can’t address the price of the deal, we do know as of this morning, exactly what Microsoft plans to do with Skype…at least in part.
Skype, the company states, will be coming to Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone, Lync and Outlook, plus other Windows devices and communities.
According to a Skype blog post put up first thing this morning, the popular communications company will be integrated into many of Microsoft’s products and services, but it will not remove support for its product on non-Microsoft platforms, thankfully. That means that mobile apps like the iPhone and Android app will still be maintained, as will the Mac desktop application. How often those products will be updated, however, is unknown.
“Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices,” the blog post states, referring cryptically to “Windows devices,” instead of saying “computers running the Windows operating system,” for example, which is a bit curious, we think. The post then continues, “Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities.”
Prior to this statement, Skype referred to Microsoft’s “long-standing focus and investment in real-time communications,” and mentioned many of the same products, but also included Hotmail and Messenger in the list. Although not named directly in the line of products and services Skype says it will support going forward, it would make sense to integrate Skype with Hotmail or Microsoft’s consumer-facing instant messaging service, Messenger, both on the desktop and on mobile. That would make the product a compelling alternative to Google’s popular Gmail program, which includes Google Talk, an integrated video chat service, albeit a far more basic one than Skype.
Further integrating the Skype + IM + Hotmail offering onto the mobile handset, specifically those powered by Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s mobile OS which also connects users to their Xbox identities and games, would then complete the circle.
As ReadWriteWeb editor Richard MacManus speculated prior to this morning’s news, Skype needs to make a jump to “non-PC devices,” and will be able to do so thanks to the Xbox and Kinect. Skype from your living room TV to your phone and back? Skype from your work PC to your kids playing Xbox at home? Maybe even Skype from Mac to your SYNC-enabled vehicle? This is the future of Skype, under Microsoft’s direction. And it’s not a bad one at that, if Microsoft can execute.