Microsoft’s Skype Assimilation (And Why Google Should Be Worried)

skype logo Microsofts Skype Assimilation (And Why Google Should Be Worried)The software giant has snapped up one of the hottest VoIP startups from the jaws of Google by paying twice as much as the search engine giant in cold hard cash.

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: “MSFT”) and Skype Global S.à r.l today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire Skype, the leading Internet communications company, for $8.5 billion in cash from the investor group led by Silver Lake. The agreement has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Skype. (Microsoft)

Skype was on the verge of going public when Microsoft and Google entered a bidding war over the VoIP king.

Although the search engine giant has their own “VoIP” service via Google Voice, Larry Page (Google’s co-founder and new CEO) may regret the day that he did not purchase Skype. [Read more...]

Skype: Android 3G Calling Now Included

skype logo Skype: Android 3G Calling Now IncludedAndroid users have one less reason to gripe about Skype as the VoIP king has given the green light for 3G calling upon their Android app.

And to show there are no hard feelings, tucked into this morning’s update is “Calling over your 3G connection is available worldwide – now including the US.”  This opens up 3G calling to everyone, not just Verizon customers like we’ve seen so far. (Android Central)

Previously Skype only allowed WiFi calling for their Android devices which was odd seeing as their official iPhone app could make 3G phone calls as well as WiFi.

Surprisingly Skype did not update any their corporate blogs highlighting this new ability, although they did note the change upon Android Market.

With the inclusion of 3G calling upon Android Market,  it looks like Skype is ending their practice of playing carrier favorites with users (although the Android app is still lacking when compared to its iOS brother).

Note: Unfortunately video calling over 3G isn’t listed as a feature for Android (is video calling even available for Android?), although hopefully the company will add that feature soon (so yours truly can video chat with his Droid loving relatives).

Will Skype Ads Pay Off?

advertising in skype 490x372 Will Skype Ads Pay Off?

In an attempt to help monetize their platform, the VoIP king is launching ads upon Skype and is even leveraging their relationship with Facebook in order to empower users to share the ads with friends.

While including ads may help Skype off set the cost of providing free video chat services for millions of users, the question is will their service pay off?

Skype “Home” provides a sponsored large masthead space at 650 x 170 pixels expandable to 650 x 340 pixels for advertisers to display ads that can include audio or video. Since the ads are on Skype, advertisers can add a Click & Call button in the ad as another call to action. In addition, it allows people to share the ad to their Facebook or Twitter accounts, and with one-click, ads can also be closed with the “Close Ad” button. (Business Wire)

Skype’s plan on placing ads upon the home screen instead of on top of conversations is great for Skype fans, but it may not benefit advertisers as users will probably spend most of their time in the “conversational area” of Skype (unlike the home page).

Unless Skype was able to present some kind of “Groupon like” deal of the day, I fail to see how these ads will receive an abundance of user attention outside of Skype fans closing the ad out of annoyance.

Although it’s great to see Skype putting users ahead of advertisers, hopefully the company an adopt a strategy that benefits users and advertisers in order to help pay for their free video chat sessions.

(Image Credit: Official Skype Blog)

Skype Courts Palm Pre 2 On Only One Carrier?

skypepalmpre2 Skype Courts Palm Pre 2 On Only One Carrier?For those of you who have not given up on webOS, you’ll be delighted to hear that Skype has finally released an app for Palm Pre 2 fans.

Unfortunately they are once again playing favorites with select carriers, which means a large number of Pre fans will be out of luck.

We’re working constantly to bring Skype to as many mobile devices as possible, and we’re excited to announce that Skype is now available on the Palm Pre 2 from Verizon Wireless. [...]

All calls run on the largest and most reliable wireless network in the US, which helps to make sure that call quality is top-notch, and lets you use your favorite accessories, including Bluetooth headsets. (Official Skype Blog)

Palm Pre 2 fans upon other carriers attempting to download Skype will be greeted with a friendly “Skype is not available for your phone” despite the fact that they run the same exact mobile OS.

Skype isn’t saying when their app will be available for the rest of the Palm Pre tribe, but hopefully the company will consider exiting Verizon’s walled garden lest they lose out customers to rivals like Google Voice.

Note: If anyone has any tips/hacks for porting Skype to Palm Pre 2 fans on other carriers, feel free to enlighten us in the comment section below!

Skype Compensating Users For Downtime

In what has probably been one of the worst downtimes in the history of Skype (perhaps rivaling that of even Tumblr’s outage), it looks like the VoIP king is slowly bringing its services back online.

While this outage could not have come at the worst time (during the holidays nonetheless), it looks like loyal customers will be compensated for the outage that has affected millions of users.

It’s taken some time to do, but we’re making steady progress. To put things in perspective, there are now around 16.5 million people online on Skype around the world. This is about 80% of what we’d normally expect to see at this time of day.

We’ve stabilised Skype’s core functionality – IM, audio and video – but it will take longer for us to restore offline IM and group video calling. It’s been a tough 24 hours for many of you – and I’d like to thank you for your patience as we bring Skype back to normal.

I realise that it’s difficult to compensate you for not being able to talk to or see your friends, family or colleagues, but we’re planning to offer Skype Credit vouchers to all of our loyal paying customers to thank you for your continued support. (Official Skype Blog)

Skype has yet to reveal how much compensation users will receive (as well as when the credits will role in), but either way it’s good to see Tony Bates (the CEO of Skype) explaining the issue via video to users who are obviously not pleased with the inability to contact their loved ones.

The VoIP king plans on updating more users via Twitter (@Skype) as well as blogging, although users can also report problems to @PeterAtSkype (who has been keeping everyone updated regarding the downtime).

Is Google Voice Trying To Starve Out Skype In 2011?

googlevoice 300x225 Is Google Voice Trying To Starve Out Skype In 2011?Despite launching Google Voice within Gmail, Google is still playing second fiddle to the VoIP king (aka Skype).

While Google has yet to launch a full fledged VoIP client of their own (as Google Voice currently lacks a softphone client), the search engine giant has decided to decline charging US users in 2011 for contacting numbers within America.

When we launched calling in Gmail back in August, we wanted it to be easy and affordable, so we made calls to the U.S. and Canada free for the rest of 2010. In the spirit of holiday giving and to help people keep in touch in the new year, we’re extending free calling for all of 2011.

In case you haven’t tried it yet, dialing a phone number works just like a regular phone. Look for “Call phone” at the top of your Gmail chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name. (Google Voice Blog)

Currently Skype (as well as other VoIP companies) provide users with unlimited calling through annual premium plans which allow them to call mobile devices or landlines without paying for usage by the minute.

Although Skype does have a few advantages over its smaller rival (multi-video chat, Facebook integration, etc.), competing against a quality free service will be difficult to for Skype, especially considering the fact that Google has very deep pockets.

While Google Voice is obviously sacrificing short term profits for growth, 2011 could be the year that Google dethrones Skype in America, helping the search engine giant compete against the VoIP king later on upon the global stage.

Skype Enters Android’s Walled Garden Via KDDI?

skypekddiandroid Skype Enters Androids Walled Garden Via KDDI?After exiting Verizon’s walled garden earlier on Android (to the celebration of millions everywhere), the VoIP king has announced that a strategic partnership with KDDI, which may not please many Japanese Android fans.

Following the announcement of our partnership with Verizon Wireless earlier this year, we’ve just announced a strategic alliance with KDDI to integrate Skype software across KDDI’s services, starting with its mobile network –au.

au customers will be able to benefit from Skype-to-Skype voice calls which don’t count against their monthly minute allowance*, IM, as well as great value calls to international numbers at Skype’s low rates.

The Skype app for au phones will be ‘always on’ so customers can see their friends’ online status at any time, as well as be able to receive Skype calls and Instant Messages whenever they’re connected. (Official Skype Blog)

Until recently Skype was not available to Japanese and Chinese Android users, an omission that was puzzling until this announcement was made.

While this agreement probably puts some extra cash in Skype’s pocket in the short term, it’s hard to see deals like this will benefit Skype over the long term (despite the fact that KDDI is releasing new Android phones this December).

Fortunately for Skype, Google Voice has yet to focus upon the land of the rising sun. Although if the search engine giant ever decides to expand east, Skype may find its deal with KDDI to be a burden rather than a benefit.

Skype Plus Facebook: Friends Or Frenemies?

As any geek worth their page rank knows, Skype and Facebook have joined forces in an attempt to make it easier for friends and family to connect with each other via status updates or VoIP.

We’ve integrated the Facebook News Feed and Phonebook into Skype, making it easier to stay connected with the people and communities you care about. We’ve revitalised the look and feel, making voice and video calling, instant messaging, screen sharing and file sharing intuitive and easy to navigate. And you can now bring even more of your family and friends together with the new group video calling feature available in open beta. (Official Skype Blog)

While this geek is extremely happy for the two tech titans finally working together (as it makes it easier to call my friends half way around the world), the alliance seems to be more of a defensive move against their common foe (hint: Google). [Read more...]

Skype Exits Verizon’s Walled Garden (Android)

Android fans outside of Verizon’s network no longer have to envy their iPhone and Nokia buddies as Skype is officially available for those who embrace the green robot.

You’ve been asking us for it – and now it’s here. Skype is now available on a wide range of Android phones, so you can save money and stay in touch when you’re out and about. Visit skype.com/m on your phone to download, or read on to find out what’s inside.

With the new app, you can make free Skype-to-Skype calls, and send and receive IMs for free, one-to-one or with a group. You can also call phones at Skype’s great rates – over WiFi or 3G. (Official Skype Blog)

Truthfully it was always puzzling as to why Skype decided to make their app exclusive to Verizon despite the fact that doing so limited their service to between 1/2 and 1/3 of US customers despite Androids global footprint.

Fortunately it seems as if Skype execs have seen the light, as Skype is available on all Android powered devices unless one lives in Japan or China.

Unfortunately if you have a Samsung Galaxy S you are more or less out of luck, but hopefully Skype will be able to rectify this soon (as users are reportedly unable to sing into their Skype accounts.).

Skype Plus Facebook Equals Death To Google Voice?

skypefacebook 490x206 Skype Plus Facebook Equals Death To Google Voice?

With the search engine giant ramping up Google Voice to challenge Skype’s VoIP supremacy, it looks like Skype is looking to align itself with the search king’s nemesis who despises all things Google.

Actually, according to sources close to the situation, Facebook and Skype are poised to announce a significant and wide-ranging partnership that will include integration of SMS, voice chat and Facebook Connect. [...]

Facebook’s goal, according to sources: To mesh communications and community more tightly together and add more tools to allow users to do so.

Since it was not going to create an Internet telephony service of its own–kind of like not creating a mobile operating system–Facebook has apparently turned to the Web’s Internet telephony leader. (All Things Digital)

Unless Skype can somehow integrate its video chat service within Facebook chat, I’m highly skeptical whether this deal will help Skype compete against Google Voice’s (as users do not have to pay to own a phone number unlike Skype).

Facebook on the other hand could benefit from this alliance as it would give users a reason to utilize the chat service, especially if they integrate Skype within Facebook’s web interface.

According to All Things Digital Skype’s Facebook feature will be accessible in version 5.0 which is only available for Windows users (sorry Mac fans), although the company is working on a version for iFans in the not-too-distant future.

(Image Credit: All Things Digital)