MS hints at Skype's future, stresses cross-platform support

Skype will be blended into lots of Microsoft products, but MS stressed it'll keep building Skype across other platforms

Microsoft's Skype acquisition will result in voice and video calling blended into lots of existing Microsoft products, but the company also stressed that it'll keep building Skype across other platforms.

"Our vision is that products and services that Skype users know and love today will simply grow and be enhanced," Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said at a press conference Tuesday. "Part of that commitment is to continue investing and supporting Skype on non-Microsoft client platforms."

Skype chief executive Tony Bates said cross-platform support was "absolutely critical," and a fundamental part of the deal.

Microsoft announced this morning that it will buy Skype for $8.5 billion in cash. At the press conference, Ballmer said the companies finalized that figure on April 18, and signed the deal Monday night.

For now, Microsoft isn't explaining its plans for Skype in detail. The product roadmap will come later, pending regulatory approval. But that didn't stop the companies from dropping hints, saying Skype will make its way to Kinect for Xbox 360, Windows phones, Outlook and the Lync communications client for businesses. It seems that Microsoft is keen on using Skype to have all of its services communicate through a single voice and video service.

"We want to stitch together the world, and we have big customer bases that we can connect in a way that will add value to, I think, all members of the community," Ballmer said.

Less clear is how Microsoft will approach wireless carriers, which have treated Skype with caution. Skype for Android, which launched for all carriers in October, didn't support 3G voice calls until last month. The iPhone version of Skype went through similar growing pains. "I've certainly already heard back this morning from some of our operator partners who've been enthusiastic, and I'm sure we'll have some work to do to also communicate clearly, to continue to support the broad set of operator partners," Ballmer said.

Bates also said that Skype is "just scratching the surface" with advertisements as a new revenue stream. Skype launched advertisements in March, and Bates talked of a "rich media" approach to ads in Skype software.

Bates has high hopes for Skype under Microsoft. "We think this (acquisition) allows us to extend from hundreds of millions to literally billions. We believe that this is a platform and a set of services that can reach everyone on the planet."

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Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
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