Friday, May 13, 2011

So why did Microsoft buy Skype?

Since we create cross-platform development tools and our customers build cross-platform software, I tend to closely follow other cross-platform software products. Here at Real Software, we use Skype daily so when it was announced that Microsoft is buying Skype, my interest was piqued.

I think Bob Cringely got it right. Microsoft needs to transform itself and buying Skype is one of many ways it can do this. It's not clear if there is a specific strategy at Microsoft however. In this particular case, the strategy may very well be to simply keep Google from buying Skype. There's never only one prospective buyer and the reason Microsoft paid such a high price is no doubt related to Google's interest in Skype. The fact that the Microsoft antitrust decree ended on Wednesday with little fanfare is more evidence that Microsoft just isn't what it used to be.

But since we use Skype daily, my biggest concern is what will become of Skype. Microsoft has not had great successes with purchasing a product and then improving upon it. If you're were a FoxPro user, you know what I'm talking about.

6 comments:

Micro Niche Finder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Ragsdale said...

I was right along with you, Geoff, until the last paragraph: "Microsoft has not had great successes with purchasing a product and then improving upon it. If you're were a FoxPro user, you know what I'm talking about."

If you're talking about Microsoft "killed" FoxPro (after releasing 6 versions of Visual FoxPro, each release better than the last) - or if you're talking about Microsoft killing the cross-platform capabilities then yeah, I know what you're talking about.

But to say they didn't *improve* FoxPro? You really missed the mark on that one.

Bob Keeney said...

You could have used HotMail, Yahoo, and Danger as better examples of Microsoft purchasing another company and driving it into the ground. FoxPro was just ignored in favor of the development environment flavor de jour of the time.

Plays for Sure, Kin and Zune are examples where MS completely missed the boat. They completely screwed their partners on them too which hurts them in the future.

I'm willing to be surprised on the acquisition but you'd think for nearly 9 billion they could have written a Skype lookalike (or perhaps they did and they found it lacking - dunno). Sure, they get a lot of users but how do you make money off of free? Force them to watch ads?

I just don't see much of an upside for MS on this one - keeping it away from Google doesn't seem worth the price. I would bet there were some chuckles coming from Cupertino when the news hit.

Steveorevo said...

Agree. Improvement is not their strong point. Vista over XP, Softimage over, well Softimage. Caligari trueSpace, now deader then dead.

FoxPro was in pretty bad shape, so improving it really didn't require much on Microsoft's part. Still, it was an accomplishment of sorts given the disaster and complete re-write of their competing in-house product "Omega" (aka Microsoft Access). Remember those wonderful DAO (Data Access Object) memory leaks? Even their own staff got tired of writing reboot scripts on their servers. So they just re-arranged the letters and re-branded it ADO, sans the memory leaks. But they sure didn't forget to forced everyone to upgrade Visual Studio rather then fix the problem.

I suspect Microsoft would have done better if they just stole the source code to Skype (like in the good old days with Sybase). At least then they could have a nice 'original looking' product that kinda sorta works really "OK".

john said...

I maybe be loosing my marbles but I would of thought the correct word was piqued not peaked :)

Alyssa said...

@john Quite right..edited for grammar, thanks!