Did Microsoft buy Skype for itself or was this a clever way to move funds out of the US? If you don't know what the latter means, Skype is registered in Luxembourg, which has a more favorable tax rate than the US. So, there is speculation that the high price for Skype is partly to save on taxes. It did seem odd that Microsoft bought it outright and made it a unit of Microsoft, instead of investing in it. Skype has a very strong brand to stand on it's own.What will happen to it's existing branding agreements? Will we start seeing from Microsoft Hardware division Skype phones?
The alleged tax reason might be a side benefit though, given the fact that Skype can play a prominent role in establishing an on-line office business suite. In the beginning, solutions like Google Docs tease the possibility of an on-line office suite. Microsoft responded with Office Web, basically providing the same functions you would get from the desktop suite. Adding Skype can push this further by adding communication. If Skype could be tightly integrated with the other MS communication tools, Sharepoint and Exchange, it would allow businesses to be able to communicate documents with their customers, bringing them closer and extending their reach at the same time. Who wouldn't want to be able to call their supplier for free? That customer whom you prefer to talk to but costs more for long-distance; well, now he is a click away. How about a supply chain tool using Office Web? Not sure what that invoice is for? Click on the person who signed for the corresponding delivery and get to talk to him.
Let's view a scenario. Supplier and customers are running Sharepoint and Exchange. The two Exchange servers talk to each other over the Internet and exchange info on their users, including Skype account/numbers auto-generated by the Exchange server as part of the user creation process. Now when the need to talk arises, a click will not only send an e-mail, but may include a live invitation to talk that show you whether the person sending it is online and accepting calls. A supplier adds the users to a customer community powered by Sharepoint and they all can optionally share Skype numbers. Meetings can now be scheduled via Exchange and powered by Sharepoint and Skype. Now bring in Office365 and that offering goes over a cloud, lowering barrier for entry with a pay-as-you-use model.
This puts Citrix, which run GotoMeeting, in the Microsoft's crosshairs. Both companies have a close relationship, primarily through cross licencing for Windows Terminal Server and MetaFrame. Or more like MS strongarmed Winframe from Citrix to become Windows Terminal server. What would be worrying is that Microsoft would build a unifying directory service (that runs on a cloud, of course) that would tie their Exchange and Skype users worldwide. How much would companies prefer to Skype than pick up the phone?
What does this means for Linux users? First, we can kiss the Eternal Beta version of the Linux Skype client goodbye. But in the long term, adoption of Skype as the business-grade protocol for voice communication means locking out Open Source and Linux solutions. Which is (putting evil-thoughts hat on) what THEY want.
E-mail is king of business to business communication right now and most business people associate Outlook/MsExchange to THE e-mail system, much in the way some people associate Facebook as the Internet. What if their e-mail turn into voice calls? Click on a small handset icon next to an contact entry to make the call. How often would you choose that over picking up the phone and dialing the number? It would be strange to talk about the rise of voice in business communication because it has always been the most important method of business communication. What Skype integration into Exchange could do is make Exchange even more central to business communication because now you can do voice with Exchange. Add in a global directory service which the servers can attach to (for a fee) and you can create direct B2B VOIP for FOC. Not in? No worries! Exchange and MSSkype can take the call and forward the message as part of an e-mail. Talk about lowering the (technical) barrier for free calls over the Internet. And whoever can't handshake between servers talking MSSkype will be the loser. This might irritate the telcos but blocking the service would essentially mean outlawing VOIP. Now there is a fight.
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