Skype Acquires GroupMe: In Search of the Mobile Shared Communications Experience

GroupMe.Skype.Logo.200pxSince the launch of Skype for iPhone over WiFi connections more than two years ago, Skype has evolved its mobile offerings to add support for calling over 3G and video calling. They have added to the mobile platforms with Skype for Android and Skype for iPad. However, Skype is also recognizing that, while the basic Skype algorithm for text, voice and video conversations certainly has a significant role in mobile communications, users also want to go beyond that basic algorithm with supporting and managing persistent video messaging and group communications.

Skype’s acquisition of Qik and the subsequent offerings on iPhone and Android was the first step in this direction offering not simply live communications but also video messaging and archiving for later recall. Yesterday Skype recognized the potential role of persistent group communications with its acquisition of GroupMe, providing managed and hosted group messaging services on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows 7 platforms. According to Skype CEO Tony Bates:

The GroupMe team has created an incredibly sticky group messaging experience that works across mobile devices and platforms, making it a perfect addition to our voice, video and text products. We’re excited about introducing their disruptive product to our global user base.

There has been a plethora of text messaging services emerging over the past year or so. Kik Messenger, Beluga and TextMe are three platforms where I installed the application, signed up but have never used it. Why? While initially they are widely praised for their algorithms, the bottom line is the number of users who are actually using it. RIM continues to build a lot of its appeal around BlackBerry Messenger; they have over 40 million accounts.

With Skype’s acquisition, GroupMe will soon have access to over 170 million users (they need to transition from their Twilio backend). Only then will we see if this has become a significant acquisition for Skype.

Other questions:

  • Can and, if yes, how will Skype monetize the service?
  • How will GroupMe be positioned with respect to any Microsoft offerings such as Live Messenger?

As with Qik, Skype intends to continue GroupMe as a separate branded service with integration into other products and services as appropriate.

The challenges for GroupMe now becomes one of integrating the Skype technology into its backend and then building user experiences that encourage viral adoption and sustained usage across Skype’s 170 million users. The challenge for Skype is one of positioning and promoting GroupMe such that it contributes to Microsoft’s justification for its pending $8.5B acquisition of Skype.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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