It’s easy to scoff at Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype as a woeful attempt to buy loyalty. A medieval marriage, if you will, intended to make the duke beloved through alliance with a pious wife. And it is true that, generally speaking, Skype users *love* Skype where as Microsoft users merely tolerate the brand, or, best case, adopt a love-to-hate-it attitude.
It’s superficial assessment and misses the point.
The point is, ownership of Skype gives Microsoft the opportunity to deeply alter its DNA and to fundamentally change the very nature of the Microsoft brand through an open, can-do, user-focused attitude. Imagine:
- Seamless integration of Skype throughout Office. Easy accessibility to anyone and their data from virtually anywhere. We could launch a videoconference on the fly from within Word, or get instant feedback in the midst of making a PowerPoint deck.
- In-your-face xBox sparring. Live video interaction leads to a fundamental reconsideration of what massive multiplayer online gaming really is. Graphics merged with live footage morphed into a game. More realistic avatars. Trashtalk taken to a new level. Sweet!
- Widespread corporate adoption of Skype as telecommunications infrastructure. IT is already intimate with Microsoft. If Microsoft does it right, transitioning to Skype will be a no-brainer for many CIOs. Systems will be easier to manage and users will have an improved overall experience.
Maybe Microsoft will be able to start living up to its 2006 tagline, “Your potential. Our passion.” Heads will turn. Opinions will change. Grudging Microsoft users may become enthusiasts. It’s not too much to expect, if you lengthen the timeline a bit – if Microsoft adopts the user-centric Skype approach and if Skype influences Microsoft more than Microsoft influences Skype. What started as another way to beat the system could help Microsoft, the system itself, truly blossom.
Perhaps this is why Microsoft will succeed where eBay didn’t. Both companies bought Skype for its user base, functionality, and to play keep-away from Google. But while eBay saw Skype come and go with nary a scratch, Microsoft really needs this to work.