Microsoft announced earlier this week that the company is dropping its “Messenger” product and replacing it with Skype, which it acquired last year, for its online chat service. In a blog post, Microsoft said “Skype and Messenger are coming together, and that by updating to Skype, Messenger users can instant message and video call their Messenger friends.”
The transition was seen as a positive move by market observers. Both IDC and Gartner’s analysts pointed out the strategy makes sense. “Skype has a much stronger brand in the consumer space and more importantly is much more trendy with the kind of audience they are trying to capture, especially in the smartphone market,” said Carolina Milanesi, Gartner’s research VP for consumer technologies and markets.
As for IDC, the consultant firm believes Microsoft is adapting its strategy to provide a reliable product for attending both consumer and enterprise demands. “Skype has proven to be an adaptable solution as it can be for sure used by consumers from phone calls to video conferencing and at the same time be managed by centralized IT teams for enterprise environments,” commented César Alberto Longa, IDC’s manager for enterprise software programs for Latin America.
The combination is a natural step, commonly used by vendors when acquiring a company to generate more synergy between brands and products. Back at the time of the purchase announcement, Gerry Purdy, principal analyst at MobileTrax, wrote that Microsoft wanted to acquire Skype because of customers and brand. “Although Microsoft has its own version of messaging, the benefits of acquiring Skype usurp the costs of having two messaging services. Why? With Skype, Microsoft adds the most successful global messaging and VoIP calling product and brand to its portfolio,” he wrote.
Tony Bates, president of the Skype division at Microsoft, wrote that the company wants to focus its efforts on making things simpler for users while continuously improving the overall experience. “We will retire Messenger in all countries worldwide in the first quarter of 2013 (with the exception of mainland China where Messenger will continue to be available),” he posted in a blog.
IDC believes this is strategic step towards the enterprise market. “Microsoft has shown the market they’re committed to mobility,” Longa noted, pointing out the launch of Windows Phone, its Azure cloud offering (Azure) and the recent Windows 8 launch were aimed at providing customers with a mobile platform.
Another question to ask while evaluating Microsoft’s move is the impact this change could have for carriers, once Skype is easily installed in cellphones and it is cheaper to make phone calls using this application.
“This is a big challenge for carriers, they will have to make a switch in strategy in order to focus on the data transferring plans and placing bundle prices to adapt to an application they cannot manage,” Longa noted.
Milanesi added that currently Skype is already present on other platforms as are other voice over Internet Protocol apps. “Although, of course, the deeper integration with Windows is going to deliver a richer more conducive experience for users and likely increase usage, I really think this is not carriers’ biggest problem.”