(Micro) publish and be damned, and the new Microsoft Skype close

David Hart
David Hart
In Musings
18th May 2011
(Micro) publish and be damned, and the new Microsoft Skype

Twitter’s been in the news again. This time because one Twitterer decided to publish the names of people allegedly the subject of super injunctions to prevent details of their private lives being written about. I say ‘alleged’ because it appears that in at least one case, the information was false.

Of course, tabloid newspapers are using this as a way of both making the case for a relaxing of the privacy laws that see them being prevented or sued for writing salacious stories about the rich and famous, and showing that whistle-blowing members of the public don’t check their facts first.

It also shows how we’re all publishers now. It might be micro-publishing with a limit of 140 characters, but it’s still publishing nevertheless. And the injunction Tweeter managed to clock up tens of thousands of followers in a short time. I just wonder whether he or she knew what they were doing….was it someone who just knew some info and decided to share it, or was it more of a deliberate plan with a full expectation of what would follow? The fact is, they’ve committed an offence and could possibly end up in jail. Actually, potentially, so has anyone else who Re-Tweeted any of these messages. Seems a high price to pay to embarrass a few celebrities.

Talking of high prices. Why has Microsoft decided to buy Skype for $8.5bn, a company that lost $69m last year? A number of theories abound and I’ve tried to summarise them here:

Brand. Skype is a massive brand. It’s one of those brands that has become a verb like Photoshop, Twitter and Facebook. Microsoft isn’t exactly unknown, granted, but even a giant like them wouldn’t be able to build a brand like Skype anytime soon (or ever, anyone here using Microsoft’s Zune at all?).

Business. Maybe Skype will be directed at professional users. If Microsoft product managers can be tasked with integrating Skype into Office or Sharepoint, then it increases the value of those product lines.

Defence. There are a lot of people saying that Microsoft only did this to keep Skype out of the hands of rivals such as Google or Facebook.

Gaming. Or is it more to do with stealing a march on Sony by integrating video chat into the X-Box Kinect?

Keeping up with the Joneses. Apple has Facetime, which works across their phones, tablets and computers. Microsoft would trump Apple with Skype and it would bode well for their Windows 7 phones. Although they have said Skype will work across multiple platforms, what if they decided to discontinue supporting Skype on Apple products? 

Microsoft has run out of ideas. They can’t innovate, and their shareprice has fallen 11% in the last 12 months, against Apple’s growth of 44%. Some argue that this is CEO, Steve Ballmer’s last-ditch attempt to show that he is up to the job.

Ahead of the wave? Video is only going to increase as we move to 4G/5G and super-fast delivery of data. Microsoft want to be able to be at the head of the game when developers are integrating video chat into their apps.

Money. There must be someone thinking about how they are going to monetize Skype. Maybe the freemium route is one that they will be able to roll-out.

All in all, I hope that this will be good news for users of Skype, although Microsoft’s track record of late doesn’t bode terribly well. I’m very glad it doesn’t fall on my shoulders to demonstrate a justification for the investment over the next few years.