It’s official now: Microsoft buys Skype for $8.5 billion in cash. That’s a lot of money for a firm whose business has yet to become profitable, especially if compared to the $2.8 billion that the selling side – Silver Lake et al – paid eBay for it in 2009. Here are some varyingly loose thoughts to start with:
- Product-wise, this could be a nice fit. Microsoft has severalareas in both consumer and enterprise sectors that will benefit from a top-notch VoIP,video and sharing solution. All of the synergies may never realize, but even the promise of them goes a long way explaining why the price may not seem that right.
- Whatever happens, Skype is still multiple times a better fit for Microsoft than it was for eBay, whose own purchase in 2005 was based on the assumption that it would boost its auction business. Who wouldn’t enjoy calling to strangers, eh?
- A preinstalled, well integrated Skype client could be a potent differentiator for Windows Phone devices vs. Androids, iPhone and BlackBerry. Thus far there aren’t many, at least in the positive sense of the word.
- As a third-party app, Skype has worked well on Windows Phone’s rivals. So one interesting issue will be to see whether Microsoft will make it exclusive for WP handsets. That would probably unnecessarily hinder Skype’s push into the mobile domain, and erode its brand and user base, so a likelier option will be that Nokia and other manufacturers using WP will insteadgain some premium features. Video calling mightwell be one.
- Telcos won’t be happy to seeanother over-the-top front opening, but they have surely seen it coming. Just witness Telefonica’s (Jajah) and Deutsche Telekom’s (Bobsled) moves in this space – they’re trying hard to make VoIP working for them rather than only against them. But having said that, if they wished that the Nokisoft tie-up would result in a leading yet still operator-friendlier ecosystem they will be disappointed.