TV as video calling tool for the family?
Microsoft's Skype buy, may mean gesture-and-TV-based video calls for the rest of us

‘See as you speak’: the ability to make voice calls to any one anywhere, while seeing the person you are calling – that may be future, brought a little bit nearer, more affordable, by Microsoft’s $ 8.5 billion acquisition of Skype the company that pioneered free or near free telephone calls fuelling Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. “ Skype is arguably the most successful real-time social communication platform on the planet, and its $8 billion price tag means that only companies such as Microsoft have any chance of acquiring it. But is it a good fit for Microsoft's business model? Answer: Yes”, says Richard Edwards, Principal Analyst at Ovum, “It's popular, it runs on Windows PCs, and later this year it will be available on Windows Phone 7. Perhaps more importantly for the rest of us, Skype also runs on other computers, such as Mac and Linux, and mobile phones too, such iPhone and Android-based devices”.

“With Apple FaceTime -- a competitor to Skype -- now available on the Mac, iPhone 4, iPad 2 and the new iPod touch, it is definitely now or never for Microsoft. There are other products and companies out there that offer a much better fit architecturally than Skype (and they come with a much cheaper price tag too), but Skype is undoubtedly the product Microsoft needs to stay in the game”, Edwards adds.

Praveen Bhadada, Engagement Manager, Zinnov Management Consulting, a leading Bangalore headquartered globalization advisory firm comments:” There are 3-4 key opportunity segments that Microsoft will have, if it acquires Skype and can indeed potentially gain an advantage: Collaboration and communication – with Skype it can tap a huge base of customers in India for its video conferencing solutions. 2.Packaging with Xbox live – for enriched gaming experience collaborating real time with online gamers. 3.Skype can help enrich the mobile presence of Microsoft where it can potentially be shipped with win7 series phones and 4. It can also give it an edge in the tablet market as an essential app for collaboration. In addition to these points, Skype also will give a growth engine to Microsoft. If they can integrate it with their office360 (SaaS) product line, they can charge for the usage of Skype services as part of the SaaS offering. Skype will also fit well with the Microsoft - Nokia mobile strategy for video calling etc”.

"The deal will be a fantastic source of data points to help Indian companies in their negotiations to raise funds, do exits, and get better valuations," says Mohanjit Jolly, managing director of the Indian unit of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a Silicon Valley firm that invests in technology and clean technology firms, speaking to Economic Times.  

In an editorial, the paper says:

“Telecom policy and spectrum usage must aim for universal high-speed broadband access, on which pure voice calls are just one functionality. Equipment manufacture, both network and customer-premise, is key for affordable ubiquity of next-generation communications. A publicly-funded national fibre optic network that can be used by service providers is imperative. India cannot afford to lag behind on this vital infrastructure of a modern economy”.  

Devita Saraf, CEO of Vu TelePresence gets to  the crux of the Skype-Microsoft deal for lay consumers: “The announcement that Microsoft will acquire Skype is a ringing endorsement of the communications services market, specifically in the area of telepresence/videoconferencing. This acquisition as well as Cisco’s recent shift towards the SMB category, reinforces our long held view that there is significant opportunity in the small business space. While video conferencing is not a new technology, small business options have been limited. Previous market options have been either very expensive or free of cost and unreliable. Rather than listening to the needs of this category, many technology companies applied a one-size fits all approach to their solutions rather than treating small businesses as individual companies. With more than 500 small business clients, Vu recognizes this category is unique and needs flexible solutions….The announcement shines a light on the businesses benefit of telepresence”.

For the rest of us, the most exciting possibility might be the ability to take video conferencing and video calling to a whole different level, when Microsoft as it will sooner rather than later, combines the functionality of Skype type video calling with the gesture technology f Kinect. “You could make and receive high-quality video via the big screen televisions using broadband-connected Xbox 360 with Kinect and Microsoft Messenger. Replace the Messenger with Skype, and suddenly Kinect-based calls can go anywhere”, says well known tech blog GigaOM. Here is their video to explain how:  

May 13 2011