May 12, 2011

Why it makes sense for Microsoft to buy Skype - and why they'll have a very hard time making it their own (Andrew's Blog 05/12/2011)

A very nice synopsis on the VoIP technology and why Skype works so well.

From a tech perspective, if you start by agreeing that voice and video over the internet is going to be important over the next decade, you're halfway there.
Andrew's bits at the end are very insightful:

What this means for Microsoft

With Skype, Microsoft gets the ONLY successful VoIP alternative that users have accepted, that works through firwewalls, and that can be purchased. Nobody can "own" SIP or h.323. IAX2 solves many of the problems with those other protocols but it's open source. Open source presents many problems for Microsoft because they can't just change it the way they want without sharing their changes and they can't keep competitors from duplicating their work.

Where Microsoft will get into trouble with Skype

While Skype works amazingly well from an end user perspective, that very connectivity presents problems for Corporate firewalls. First, Skype is very hard to block. ...Second, Skype's communication is a kind of peer-to-peer hybrid model. ... If you're using skype, your own system becomes part of the routing network for the global Skype data. Corporations, with their very fast (and expensive) network connections, can accidentally become "Supernodes" on the Skype network ...This kind of connectivity works extremely well in an open and free client for end users, but once Microsoft is behind it, the game changes. ... End users at home are going to resent carrying data for other people in corporations. Changing the connectivity protocols in Skype would be messing with the very thing that makes it successful.
I agree with "but once Microsoft is behind it, the game changes" comment and it will be interesting to see just how that game changes. Breaking out two Skype networks (consumer and corporate) could disrupt the efficiency of Skype today, since corporate "supernodes" are clearly a benefit. How will corporations get behind purchasing a service that uses the customer's network for other customers? Compliance and risk issues come to mind here.

While I "get" that owning all the proprietary, really-good, successful technology is a good thing for Microsoft I'm still curious how Microsoft will take a technology that is based on methodologies and architectures that are the antithesis to the design of most of its corporate technology. Of course there is the Online division, which fits better, but my brain cramp there is that Microsoft spent the last decade streamlining its platforms so they would be ubiquitous in the cloud or on-premise. If Skype only landed in Online then we get an anomaly (let alone the Lync challenge). That's smacks of an IBM Lotus acquisition. Then again, there is the Entertainment division, which I see Skype fitting into nicely.

Why it makes sense for Microsoft to buy Skype - and why they'll have a very hard time making it their own (Andrew's Blog 05/12/2011)

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