It will be worth watching the way Microsoft goes about leveraging their $8.5 Billion (should have paid Aussie dollars?) purchase of Skype, there will be a swarm of lessons to be learnt:
- Integration of a “free” service into a product/profit business model. This challenge will create sufficient tensions and cultural speed bumps to keep the academics busy for a long time. History is against Microsoft, most purchases like this that seek to integrate differing cultures fail to add value in the long term.
- Skype has a huge customer base, but is only marginally profitable, turning that around without risking the loss of the existing customer base who want a free service will be problematical
- To what extent is this the foundation of a marketing effort by Microsoft to protect their hugely profitable Office franchise from cloud based competitors like Google Docs, and how will this all pan out?
- Will the existing Skype customers continue to support the service now it is part of the “evil empire”
- How will Apple and Google react, both appeared to have been beaten in an auction for Skype. They both have communication products that compete with Skype, but few users.
- Can Microsoft assemble the capabilities to build new, risky, communication products that undergo a process of continuous improvement in the market with the input from users.
As a user of Skype’s free service, I am not sure how I would react to being charged, probably just “suck it up” but the commercial opportunities for conferencing calls using video must be immense, and the free service is a great entry point with a huge existing user base. Hopefully Microsoft sees it that way