Microsoft's stunning announcement that it was acquiring Skype for about $8.5 billion was initially derided by some as being a blunder. I suppose it might seem that way if you only look at Skype in its current form. But that's not really relevant to Microsoft's long-term plans.
Think about what you get when you integrate Skype with Microsoft's existing platforms. Assuming that Microsoft continues to support the breadth of computer operating systems and mobile devices that Skype currently supports, you suddenly have a global, peer-to-peer communications network unlike any other. If Microsoft is able to integrate Skype with its full range of products from its video games to Microsoft Office, you suddenly have something that neither Apple nor Google can match.
The picture is something like this. Skype is integrated into Microsoft Lync, which is the new corporate messaging system that replaces Microsoft Communicator. This gives Lync the ability to do video chats, instant messaging and voice connections with over 100 million Skype users in addition to all of the Lync users out there. While Lync provides other capabilities such as desktop sharing and multiparty conferencing, along with PBX integration, the reach provided by Skype is something that nobody else can do.
Then think about the potential integration with Windows Live Messenger, and you suddenly expand Messenger's reach to really vast numbers of people. And when you consider that most of those Skype Mobile users aren't currently using Microsoft's platform, then suddenly there's an entr??Â«e into mobile communications that Microsoft couldn't get any other way. While Skype will be integrated with Windows Phone 7, it's already available on Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Symbian devices globally. The only real restriction is that some carriers don't promote the use of Skype. On the other hand, some, such as Verizon Wireless, do.
Skype, meanwhile, gets something too. Skype users will find themselves able to connect to millions of people who were previously unavailable. Depending on how Microsoft decides to integrate Skype, those Skype users on Linux computers will find that they can have video chats with a much broader variety of Windows users. Now it's only Windows users who download and install the Skype client. Soon it could be everyone.