It wasn't much of a surprise Tuesday when Microsoft announced its plan to purchase Skype for an insane $8.5 billion in cash. After all, we previously warmed up to reports that a deal would possibly go down with Facebook or Google. Skype was dangling on a hook and that one of the big fish would take the bait sometime this week-- even a big fish like Microsoft as later reports revealed.
But once Microsoft announced its deal, one major concern immediately began to surface: will Microsoft screw up Skype? Will Microsoft limit or even end support for the service on non-Microsoft products? After all, Microsoft has a history of purchasing companies that succeed fairly well, and those that never live up to their initial promises.
That said, CEO Steve Ballmer said during a conference call that things aren't going to change for clients on iOS, Android and Mac-- the company will continue to develop and support those non-Microsoft client platforms as-is.
“I said it, I mean it," Ballmer told reporters after the conference call. "We will continue to support other platforms. We are one of the few companies that has the track record of doing this beforehand. We have done a lot of work bringing Office to the Mac and we’ve done a lot of great work with other Apple devices. Fundamental to the value proposition of communications is to reach people whether they’re on your device or not."
With Skype's cross-platform capabilities intact, what does that mean for the Windows client? Will Microsoft customers see a dramatic change on the UI side? Little is known at this point save for that the popular VoIP service will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices. There's also no guarantee that the service will remain free, as the company said it wouldn't comment on how Skype and its features will change.
"Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities," the company announced in an official statement. "Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms."
John Shinal of the Wall Street Journal brings up an interesting point: Microsoft just shelled out $8.5 billion in cash for a service that's mostly free. By the end of 2010, 8.8 million of Skype's 145 million customers actually paid for the service-- that's a mere 7-percent of the entire user base. One in ten customers actually think Skype is work paying a fee.
And Microsoft just dumped $8.5 billion into the service.
The Redmond-based company can't screw this up. Why? Because Skype is now Microsoft’s primary tool to tackle Apple in the video calling sector. More importantly, Skype is installed on Macs, iPhones, iPod Touch devices and iPads. Apple's FaceTime is ironically locked to the iOS and Mac platform.