Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Skype and the future of Voice Calling on Windows Phone -May 31st

By Harsha Bagur

The hottest news item doing the rounds for the past couple of weeks has been the acquisition of Skype by Microsoft. There have been quite a few suitors and after a lot of speculations, Skype has finally a new home in Microsoft.

Most of the concerns raised by the users about this acquisition have been about what Microsoft is going to do with Skype in future. Skype has, for long, embodied the ethos of the free communication by allowing free voice and video calls, which has benefitted quite a few small-medium sized business setups as well. The future of Skype at the hands of Microsoft is indeed a story worth following over the next few months to come. Another concern has been the multi-platform support of Skype in the coming days to come. Skype has for long been providing regular updates for the Windows, MAC and the Linux platforms. Windows has been the preferred platform to receive the latest updates which would then be provide to the MAC and the Linux platforms. It would be interesting to see whether we would see as active a support as we were used to for the MAC and Linux platforms in the days to come.

Google has been one of the suitors vying for Skype even though it already had Google voice. Facebook was also one of the suitors but was not considered as a serious buyer. Facebook would have indeed benefitted with an integrated Voice and Video service to its more than 600 million users. A conventional approach to provide such an integrated service to such an overwhelming number of users would have incurred a huge cost and an overhead of operating infrastructure.

Microsoft has its own reasons in aggressively pursuing Skype. Starting from the Gingerbread versions of Android, Google has been supporting SIP enabled Voice and Video telephony and moreover, Google has Google Voice at its disposal which can be brought over to the Mobile OS space as well. Apple has Facetime. Microsoft desperately wanted Skype to bridge this gap in its Mobile OS Windows Phone 7. We could also see Microsoft going the Android way and announcing a minimum set of hardware specifications for the Windows Phone 7 devices. We could see the front facing cameras becoming a norm in the coming future for the Smart phones. Windows Phone 7 does definitely seem to hold the potential of pole vaulting the MS mobile OS towards the top of the heap and this deal will definitely give a firm push towards that direction.

Skype deal will also give Microsoft a more direct tie-in to the operator for both the Packet switched voice and video calls. There were early indications already last year with the operators approaching Skype for the Voice calls and we could see more of such deals with the widespread adoption of LTE in the coming future. This would definitely be a revenue generator as well as value add services for both the company as well as the operator. There can also be a flip side with Microsoft beginning to eliminate support for the other mobile platforms and target the future features and value-add services exclusively only for the Windows Phone platform.

Nevertheless, the future of Skype with Microsoft is worth following!

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