Within two months Microsoft Messenger will be no more than a memory. The world’s biggest software manufacturer will replace its messaging program on March 15 with Skype, the world’s most popular internet-calling service, which it bought for US$8.5 billion in May 2011.
Microsoft this week began emailing over 100 million Messenger users warning them of the change which will see Messenger’s features folded into Skype. The two services provide similar chat, voice and video communications although Skype’s user base is six times that of Messenger. Crucially, Skype also has a lead in mobile apps which, along with cloud computing, are revolutionising the ways we live and work.
While Messenger and Skype are commonly viewed as consumer applications, the latter is hugely popular among small businesses as a cheap way to make interstate and international calls. Some businesses use Skype’s online chat as an ad-hoc internal communications network.
But Microsoft has a third communications platform which, if it is integrated with the Messenger-Skype network, will change the game completely. Microsoft Lync is essentially a business version of Skype with more powerful features in call conferencing, presence notifications and has the ability to replace the internal phone systems in large companies.
Lync Online is part of Microsoft’s cloud platform Office 365 which was only launched in June 2011. If Microsoft merges over 600 million Skype users with Lync it will give Office 365 business users free phone calls to the world’s largest phone book.
It will be interesting to see how the world’s telcos – and chief cloud competitor Google – respond.
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