Microsoft bought Skype. Now what? They could either continue to focus on a consumer path, or they may choose to enhance their business offerings. Skype is, after all, primarily a consumer product, albeit not a perfect one.
Its flawed security model depends upon a peer-to-peer communication, which (if cracked) could leave users susceptible to eavesdropping and impersonation. These risks, combined with customer service that is not equipped to handle business users and IT demands, are fairly big blockers that prevent Skype from being a truly great VoIP offering.
Regardless of the direction they take, there is no doubt that Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype has raised and will continue to raise VoIP’s profile. How will this attention ultimately affect the perception of the VoIP industry as a whole? For years, the press has focused, perhaps correctly, on consumer-oriented VoIP services.
Business users were then left with the impression that VoIP was more about Vonage and Skype than a serious solution for business. Even worse, reliability issues with these consumer services lead to the impression that all VoIP call quality may be bad. If Microsoft tries to apply the Skype technology to a business environment, the peer-to-peer model will be nothing but a landmine for Microsoft and could poison the entire business VoIP industry with bad press.
So how will Microsoft use Skype, especially given incessant pressure to innovate from their largest competitor, Google with their Google Chat and Google Voice services? For Microsoft to see true success in this acquisition, it’s probably a good idea for them not to try and revolutionise business communication, but to emphasise and leverage areas which will be an asset to them. I see potential applications for Microsoft in their gaming division, specifically as an integrated Kinect service, where a peer-to-peer technology makes the most sense.
This will open the door for companies that provide managed, hosted VoIP systems on a private, secure network, to differentiate business VoIP from consumer applications and, over time, reduce the confusion in the market about what VoIP truly is.
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