Skype is the latest mail-order bride to join Microsoft's stable up in Redmond, Washington. But unlike some of Microsoft's has-been acquisitions (Danger, I see you!), Skype is an internationally known name. How will they fit into the world of Microsoft?
Obviously its up in the air if Microsoft will let the brand exist on its own and function autonomously over the long haul. But there's a bigger question: how will Microsoft use Skype to improve their own technology? Will they embroil the company in its famous managerial red tape and run the unit into the ground? We hope not. And we have a few guesses as to how Microsoft could use Skype technology in their three major consumer offerings: Windows, Xbox/Kinect and Windows Phone
Combine your Kinect camera with the Skype service, and you've got a video chat experience that not only fits more casually into your life, but makes our lives even more Jetsons-like. Xbox, Skype and MSN contacts could be seamlessly integrated into one chat UI. Basically, it's like that time Google and Logitech tried to overcharge you to do that on Google TV. Except this time it wouldn't completely suck.
People outside the US have always gravitated towards MSN Messenger (now called Windows Live Messenger 2011 or something like that) for their conversational needs, and I've always wondered why, because that thing also completely sucks. And as it happens, Skype's design and UI is pretty great! If Microsoft had any sense, they'd totally blow up their messenger app—save for contacts—and splice Skype's DNA into the software.
Microsoft has a little thing called Windows Phone 7, which we adore, but it can't seem to get its shit together. Not only does it lack great integrated messaging, but if I had a smartphone platform, I'd be trying to get my own seamless internet phone service together, just like Google and their awesome Voice service. Skype gives them a big push in the right direction. Imagine someone calling your phone, and having the option to have that call seamlessly pushed to your computer, tablet device, or Xbox. Awesome, right?
Your move, Microsoft.
Update: We talked to Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications at Microsoft, and he dropped a few little details on us. First, the major reason why Skype was an attractive communication tool for Microsoft is that it is one of those already popular ubiquitous, competitive technologies, sure, but that it has the ability to knit together Microsoft's ecosystem across work and play categories. That's rare and powerful.
Although Shaw wouldn't comment about Facebook integration, it seems like a no brainer considering how closely Microsoft and Facebook work together. He also refused to comment on the level of integration with Windows Mobile 7 but its pretty clear that the better way to implement the technology would be more like Android/Google Voice and less like Google Voice on the iPhone. (That is, more as part of the system, eventually, and less like an App.)
All Things D also sat in on the conference call with Steve Ballmer who also divulged some plans on ways that Microsoft plans to use Skype with their existing products, and how they will deal with mobile carriers.
Some reassurance for folks worried that Microsoft won't continue to Skype on non-Microsoft platforms. Ballmer says it will and that the company's intent is to further extend it. First place it's headed: Xbox
How will Microsoft handle telecom companies who view Skype as a challenge to their business? Obviously Microsoft wants to keep carriers happy so they'll sell its Windows Phone 7 handsets, so this "a particular area of focus" for the company.