I had a broad discussion with my former supervisor at Microsoft Benelux yesterday about the company’s bid to acquire Skype; the popular internet telephony service which provides billions of its world-wide users voice and video calls services. He pointed out that it was a smart move by the giant software company and he is certain that the acquisition of Skype will be Microsoft’s riposte to Google Voice. His only worry was that Microsoft might intend to commercialize Skype to the point that it won’t be a free phone service anymore. Skype isn’t actually free in the real sense of it as there are still monthly or annual charges for those users who use it to make calls.
Now that Skype will officially be known as Microsoft's Skype Division and it will be headed by Skype CEO Tony Bates; Microsoft move might be to blend Skype features into Hotmail since MSN is a division of the company. MSN advertising department will make sure it has an advertisement-effect on impressionable minds but it might also mean the end of the Skype brand except if Microsoft intention is to treat Skype as a separate entity in this already clustered ownership structure.
My prediction is that Skype will end up losing its user-base if Microsoft decides to go the other route and integrate Skype’s features into Hotmail in order to compete with Google Voice because Skype’s experience and uniqueness will no longer be felt by its users.
All these are of course chatters and reasonings based on inconclusive evidence but it is definitely going to be fun to see how Microsoft will play this one out.