What's next for Skype?

Skype officially becomes part of Microsoft Friday. But former Skype CEO Tony Bates says user experience will remain largely unchanged.

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    Beginning today, Skype is officially part of Microsoft.
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In May, Microsoft announced it would acquire Skype, a popular VoIP platform, for roughly $8.5 billion. At the time, representatives for both Microsoft and Skype framed the deal as a win-win – Microsoft would get full access to Skype's range of desktop and mobile apps; Skype would get a pile of dough, along with the backing of one of the biggest corporations in the world.

On Friday, Skype officially became part of Microsoft, an occasion which former Skype CEO – and current Microsoft employee – Tony Bates labeled "a huge leap forward in Skype’s mission to be the communications choice for a billion people every day." So what's next for Skype? Will the company drastically change its interface? Well, not exactly.

"The answer is an emphatic no," Mr. Bates said in a video today (hat tip to Computerworld for the transcription). "The value proposition of Skype is being multiplatform across different devices, whether it's PCs, desktops, mobile phones, whether it's in the living room, and that's key and that must stay. And we're committed to that."

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In a post at Information Week, Paul McDougall speculates that Microsoft will use Skype to enhance existing services, such as the gaming platform Xbox Live. In addition, Mr. McDougall sees Microsoft embedding "Skype technology in Office products like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The idea would be to allow users to launch a Skype session, possibly via SharePoint Server, directly from within a document for instant collaboration with team members."

But PC World's resident curmudgeon John Dvorak sees the merger as a disaster for users. In a post entitled "Microsoft and Skype: A marriage made in hell," Mr. Dvorak predicts that in attempting to reach a billion users, Skype would experience "a degradation of quality, if we know anything at all about Microsoft. The Microsoft model is to milk the cash cow."

"Microsoft's acquisition of Skype will not mean that the quality of the product is going to improve," Dvorak adds. "When has that ever happened? One of my favorite examples of this Microsoft degradation is the web authoring tool FrontPage. It was an independent operation bought by Microsoft and essentially ruined by the company to the extent that it had to be dropped as a product."

Regular Skype user? How do you anticipate the next year shaking out? Drop us a line in the comments section. And for tech news, sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter, which ships every Wednesday.

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