Friday, May 13, 2011

WHAT IF? Microsoft & Skype

There are many people second-guessing the Microsoft acquisition of Skype. And for good reason. $8.5 billion is Microsoft's largest acquisition ever, and it was for a service which largely duplicates the existing MS Messenger application. The only two features that Skype has which MSN does not are: (1) the ability for telephones to call into it, and (2) the ability to call out to telephones.

And I am wondering if that is EXACTLY what MS wanted to buy.

A little while ago, Google rolled out Google Voice as "the last phone number you'll ever need". The idea was that you could give people your Google Voice number, and it would "bounce" the calls to whatever other phone you chose. It was paired with a clever speech-recognition system which was able to transcribe voice mails and send them to you as text messages and/or e-mails. The whole thing is quite clever, but it is ultimately a hack looking to work around the existing phone systems.

What if, rather than just adding Skype to XBox, Microsoft wants to change Windows Phone such that all calls thru it are done via VOIP, routed thru Microsoft servers. If Microsoft "owns" your phone number, then all calls are over data connections and it doesn't matter if you are calling on a Verizon phone, a Sprint phone, an AT&T phone, or even over your home Wifi or your XBox's ethernet connection. It could provide true phone number portability - perhaps better regarded as phone number "agnosticism" (so long as you stay with a Windows Phone). You could even, theoretically, have a "family phone" where all members of the family have their cell phones/laptops/XBoxes/Zunes ring when anyone calls their Microsoft phone number.

This would truly be thinking outside the box, and could free the customer from the control of the cellular companies. Of course, I doubt the cell phone companies would be too fond of that idea.

No comments: