Microsoft Acquires Skype – The “Amber Mac Test”

Tuesday’s announcement of the pending Microsoft acquisition of Skype has certainly drawn a complete spectrum of comments, feedback and posts. They range from Microsoft’s perception as doomsday venom for an acquisition’s products and services to praise for the potential to merge two complementary software companies that allow not only the continuation of the current service but also leveraging real time conversation features and technology into Microsoft’s existing platforms and products.

But the bottom line is that over 170 million people have actively been using Skype this year. As reinforced at the acquisition press conference, any move that would threaten or inhibit those users’ ability to continue using Skype would not help Microsoft’s bottom line. Thus, for instance, the ongoing support of Skype clients for Mac OS/X, iOS4 handheld devices, Android devices and even Linux. Yet we can now certainly see that a Skype for Windows Mobile can be expected to surface by year end.

But it’s really the user experiences that will both win new users and drive continued use by existing users. Technology journalist, technology TV program host/producer and social networking strategist Amber MacArthur has summed up the desires of most Skype users in her Tending Tech blog on the Globe and Mail website in a post: Dear Microsoft, don’t mess up Skype.

Amber outlines the history of her experience using Skype video. She was a pioneer in using Skype video for TV broadcast feeds – even when the best Skype video call resolution was 320 x 240 – long before Oprah. She regularly uses Skype for her current productions and business activity. But she also has more importantly found the value in Skype for reinforcing family relationships through calls to relatives, especially to her parents for the weekly grandparent call – regardless of where either she, in her travels, and her parents are geographically.

Amber speaks for all Skype users in her conclusion:

In my world, it’s fair to say that Skype is a necessity. Aside from Gmail, it’s the one piece of technology that I’d hate to live without. With more than 170 million active users around the world, I’m not alone. Sure, Facebook has more subscribers, but I’d ditch that social network any day of the week if I had to choose between it and Skype. I can’t say I remember any memorable Facebook messages, but there are Skype video calls I can’t forget.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what the Microsoft news means to the tech world. After all, $8.5-billion is a lot of money. However, the truth is that I don’t care. I don’t really care how much the giant software company paid. I don’t care if it gives them a stronger foothold in the web world. All I care about is that I can still make free video calls to Mom and Dad on my son’s birthday and invite them to share in a little virtual cake and a singalong. [Editor’s bold]

So, Microsoft, don’t screw up Skype. There are 170-million people and growing who won’t be very happy if you do.

Bottom line: I would ask that every Skype employee and all Microsoft employees who may become involved with embedding Skype technology into Microsoft products print  Amber’s post and put it up in their cubicle or office and, when making decisions related to the deployment and use of Skype, ask if each individual business decision passes the “Amber Mac Test” outlined in the excerpt above. It provides one significant benchmark against which the evolution of Skype and its technology can be measured.

Note: the number of users in the quote has been adjusted to reflect the 170 million active users reported at the Microsoft-Skype press conference. Based on previous reporting, this is based on the number of users who actually made at least one Skype call or conversation during the Jan-March 2011 quarter. A much more realistic measure of Skype usage than simply the total number of Skype accounts that are increasing by over 500,000 per day.

Update: Check out Alec Saunders Microsoft-Skype: emerging themes for the perspective of a former Microsoft product manager.

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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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