Skype, Microsoft and Office

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So Microsoft has bought Skype for $8.5 billion, does it mean anything for Office users?

Microsoft has bought Skype for $8.5 billion, does it mean anything for Office users?

To keep Microsoft Office as the market leader, Redmond’s main aim is to entwine people into not just Windows and Office but also Microsoft’s server, online and cloud services.

For years Outlook has worked best if organizations spend money on Windows Server and Exchange Server as well. Sure you can use other mail systems but all the cool features requite sending more money to Microsoft.

This practice, which is good for Microsoft shareholders, augurs bad things for Skype as a broad based service.

Microsoft’s purchase of Skype is good for Microsoft, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for customers.

Skype has benefited from being independent of any operating system or platform. If there’s sufficient users for an operating system, Skype made the necessary software. Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, Android etc, all have Skype downloads because it was in Skype’s corporate interest to have broad based coverage.

Now, that corporate interest has changed. Any Skype development will go through the filter of serving Microsoft’s broader corporate agenda. Despite Microsoft’s assurances, that will gradually change Skype into something that gives preference to Windows, Windows Phone and other Microsoft products.

For example, you might see Skype features that are only available for the Windows Phone and deliberately held from iPhone and Android versions. Microsoft will justify their action with the usual excuse that the rival products can’t support their innovations, an accusation that’s usually difficult to prove. In the short term that makes sense for Microsoft, after all, they have to find something that will encourage people to buy a Windows Phone!

An independent Skype has been willing to resist efforts to block the service in places like China and the United Arab Emirates. As part of Microsoft, Skype will be under more pressure to block customers from certain countries under the threat of preventing sales of other Microsoft products.

Skype offerings will likely appear in Xbox, Messenger and especially Hotmail, requiring a Windows Live login.

For Office users, Skype offerings might appear as part of Office Live to help collaboration with documents.

Microsoft paid a lot for Skype, the stock markets understood that immediately with a slump in the MSFT price and a rise in EBAY (who get an unexpected windfall from selling their stake). Redmond can’t hope to recoup their investment in direct revenue or even vague ‘synergies’ with other Microsoft products. Much of the purchase price is a premium to keep Skype away from rivals at Apple or Google.

Using Skype now

In the meantime, you can use Skype as it stands to work with people or just talk but Skype isn’t just about voice and video calls.

The screen sharing feature lets you show all or part of your computer screen to others. Use that to show PowerPoint slides, photos or some computer problem you need help with.

The file transfer service is a handy way to send files that are too large to send as email attachments.

The instant messaging service is often more convenient that Windows Messenger, if only because you can quickly switch from IM to voice or file transfers.

Skype is far better than anything now available from Microsoft, Apple or Google. uses it daily to work with our far-flung team.  It’ll be a shame if the benefits of a independant Skype are lost in Microsoft’s corporate agenda.

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