In the past few years Microsoft has invested heavily in Unified Communications and Enterprises have been implementing the Microsoft platform for their Voice and Video communications needs, at least inside their organizations.
Now Microsoft has apparently purchased Skype for $8.5B (See the OM Malik post on GigaOm).
What is interesting in all this is where this leaves Microsoft Messenger. There are in fact two versions of Messenger: The consumer facing version and the Enterprise Version that integrates with Active Directory. For a period, at least on the Mac platform the two versions were integrated in to a single product. But lately that has become two difficult to coordinate so Enterprise Users have to run a different application.
It will be interesting to see how Microsoft now evolves their Instant Messenger Voice and Video platform. They now have three code bases to integrate.
What does Skype bring to Microsoft?
Skype brings a solution with a track record of being available everywhere. Skype has been designed to communicate from behind firewalls. It brings relationships with Carriers that are growing and not faltering.
The real win is in the mobile space. It is just about the only game in town if Microsoft wants to stay relevant in mobile with a cross-platform Voice and Video solution. Without Skype Microsoft Win Phone 7 would have two choices: 1. Live with Google Talk or 2. Implement a FaceTime compliant product. Neither choice would be attractive.
What will be really interesting to see is if Skype will resist being absorbed in to the usual Microsoft strategy of Windows First and Foremost. When you look at the Unified Communications offerings from Microsoft you see a nod towards other platforms, but the reality is that Mac and Linux are treated as second class citizens. Have you tried to find the drivers to run Microsoft LiveMeeting on a Mac?
I can see Skype being integrated in to Windows Phone 7. Will it be integrated in to the Unified Communications Portfolio? It needs to be. But will it become more Microsoft Messenger like or will Microsoft let Messenger whither and die. With Microsoft's investment in Facebook it looks like Facebook may end up driving the decision. If Facebook and Skype complete their hook up you can see Skype being integrated in to Facebook Chat and giving Facebook a video chat solution. If this happens then the sheer weight of the Facebook community may sound the death knell for Messenger.
The knock on effects in the Instant Messaging world may be extensive. Skype may be ubiquitous but it is largely a stand alone solution. It does not integrate well with other messaging platforms. In that respect Skype is very much in the traditional Microsoft Style.
We know one thing: Interesting times lie ahead.