Today Microsoft announced that it had purchased Skype for 8.5 billion dollars. Skype will be run as a separate business division with in Microsoft and its CEO Tony Bates will report directly to Steve Balmer Microsoft’s CEO. For those of you that are not familiar with Skype it is a soft ware application that allows users to make voice calls and chats over the Internet. Calls that are to other users on the Skype service are free, while calls from Skype to landline or mobile phones do cost a small fee. It had over 663 million register users as of 2010 with 170 million that are active and it continues to grow. According to Microsoft they plan to bring the Skype support to Xbox, Kinect and Windows Phone. They did indicate that Skype will continue to develop and work on other platforms. Whether this remains true only time will tell. There is always the fear that over time development for the other platforms like Linux and the Mac OS X will fall by the wayside and become after thoughts.
One of the biggest problems when a company the size of Microsoft buys a company like Skype is that the smaller company will simply be swallowed up by the Microsoft culture. That what has made Skype popular with users will get lost and the urge to make it more popular with Wall Street will override the users interest. An Ars Technica article also bring up the point that Microsoft already has a its own voice and chat platform Window Live, which has more active users then Skype at 330 monthly active users. So where does Skype fit in, will it be its ability to do Skype to landline calls, which Windows Messenger doesn’t do. No one knows, there was no mention of it at the announcement. The more I think about this the more I believe that the only group that this announcement is good for are those who own stock in Skype. Unfortunately for the users and employee of Skype I don’t see a rosy future. I certainly hope I am wrong. Hopefully Microsoft can use it expertise to improve Skype UI and security. The last Skype update was to say the least not very popular with most users. It is possible that Microsoft will do everything it says it will and Skype will become an even better product for everyone. I am just not holding my breath on it.