The VoIP and videoconferencing service Skype may be a key component of Microsoft's Office 365 cloud-based productivity suite. In announcing Office 365, which opened for business on Tuesday, the president of Microsoft's Business Division said the cloud services will "drive parity" with Skype, which is growing in popularity among businesses, once it becomes part of Microsoft.
"The ability to connect Lync users with Skype users is a huge opportunity for us," said Kurt DelBene as quoted in The Seattle Times. Lync is Microsoft's instant messaging, conferencing and calling service for enterprises, one of the key components of Office 365, which also includes classic products like Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Office 365 will be available for mobile as well as desktop and laptop customers on a sliding charge based on the size of a business. It will replace Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Standard Suite and compete not only with rivals like Google Apps, but with Microsoft's desktop version of Office.
Office 365 with Skype could be a major boost for Microsoft as it bids to dominate the small-business sector, some suggest.
"Combined, this means that Microsoft could now become the low-cost, one-stop shop for small businesses seeking collaboration and communications solutions," wrote analyst Edward Moltzen on the CRN blog. "The combination of Office 365 and Skype into one package could be Microsoft's golden opportunity. Heck, it could even add a third prong to the strategy and bake it all into Windows 8 for tablets, and Microsoft would start scaring its competitors just like the old days."
But Charles King, principal analyst for Pund-IT, told us he's somewhat skeptical of Microsoft gaining an advantage over Google Apps for Business with Skype.
"I don't really see much of an advantage in Microsoft's plan," said King. "Being a registered Google user allows you to use various company solutions like Apps, Gmail, etc., as well as Google Voice. Plus, IBM's Lotus Sametime solutions have supported VOIP and other unified communications features for years."
He added, "I'm not exactly sure of what Microsoft means by 'integrating' Skype in Office 365, but unless it includes substantially new or different features than Skype has delivered in the past, the effort seems more a matter of the company trying to keep up with the competition than delivering something truly innovative."
King said such a scenario "could offer some insight into why Microsoft paid so much for an acquisition that many considered counterintuitive."
Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft announced plans last month to buy Luxembourg-based Skype for $8.5 billion in what would be its largest-ever acquisition, raising some eyebrows among analysts and shareholders. Skype, formed in 2003, is still partially owned by eBay, which sold its majority stake in 2009.
Posted: 2011-07-03 @ 11:07pm PT
Would be a great move that would make the price tag of Skype much more palatable. If they could make a greater crack into the business phone service market, then the acquisition makes a lot more sense.