Microsoft announced its acquisition of Skype, it marked another turning point for many early adopters who have known the simplicity and usefulness of the service since its first days of availability back in 2003.When
What the acquisition also represents is the potential for greater adoption by business people. Of course that will depend on how Microsoft treats Skype. It will be integrated into the Microsoft suite for use as a sanctioned communications tool. But the signs are there that Microsoft will respect the service as a stand-alone product for the millions of people who love it for what it is.
Considering these two factors, we see five reasons for why Skype will be a hit in the business world.
Skype is a Consumer Service
The new generation of great enterprise services have a common thread. People use them all the time. An iPhone is for work and for play. People use GMail in both their personal and work lives, too. Skype is in that same category. You may use it one day to call your Mom and the next minute to chat with a colleague. We named Skype our enterprise conferencing tool of the year in 2010 for its moves towards providing business-grade communications with the ease of use of its consumer product.
Skype and the Cloud
Ted Schadler of Forester Research told CIO.com that he expects Microsoft to market Skype as a cloud service along with Windows Azure and Office 365. You can also bet that Skype will be a service that is synced with Windows 8. That could be some time away but adding it as an extension makes sense for one-click communications with your business colleagues and friends. Integration with Lync is another matter. Lync is the Microsoft communications technology suite that integrates audio, video, and Web conferencing. It's so integrated into IT that Skype might wither in the environment. Skype is also a peer-to-peer service and so integrating with Lync is a question mark. How will Skype be loosely coupled from the Microsoft suite? That's my question.
Skype and Windows Phone
Combined, Microsoft has invested about $9.5 billion this past year in communications through its partnership with Nokia for $1 billion and the $8.5 billion Skype deal. What that means is millions of smartphones with VOIP. That's a low-cost alternative that plays to enterprise demands to cut communications costs.
Skype Developer Community
Think how many varieties of VOIP Skype phones that Microsoft can now create with Nokia. Add to that an ecosystem of developers who create apps with Skype to work on Windows devices. Now you have an affordable device with a community around it. Building a vibrant developer community may be the most important challenge for Microsoft, which is lagging in developer strength behind Apple iOS and Google Android.
Skype Video and Kinect
The idea of the fully immersive video experience begins to become reality with Skype in the play. Combine it with Kinect and you have the makings of an immersive video experience that is far more natural than the desktop model that has been popularized over the last 10 years. Google Voice and Apple Facetime are also playing to this opportunity. The next frontier for all these companies is how services like Kinect and Skype work seamlessly together but still remain loosely coupled so they are not too locked down in integrations.
Video Kinect, for example, is marketed as a home conferencing service. You can use Video Kinect to have live video chats with Xbox LIVE and Windows Live Messenger users.To connect the Kinect through Lync would require a more complex integration. But could Skype be the missing connection point? The question, again, is about integration and the viability of the Kinect as a enterpise tool. Julie Bard of the Microsoft Update makes the case that the Xbox could be used as a low-cost conferencing system. But with the Windows Kinect SDK and Skype, the Xbox won't even be a necessary part of the puzzle.
A Final Thought
You can look at the Skype acquisition as one for Microsoft to squander. They will if they too tightly integrate the service. It's in these integrations that the bureaucracy becomes the hindrance and the innovators depart. But if Skype is loosely coupled and a developer community sprouts then there will much to talk about. It's the business model that matters to developers. And work that's fun. Skype is fun. Kinect is fun. And Windows Phone 7 is a device that has revenue opportunities. Just don't lock Skype down and the market should open up just fine.