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:

    1. 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.
    2.  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
    3. 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?
    4. Will the existing Skype customers continue to support the service now it is part of the “evil empire”
    5. 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.
    6. 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