From Outlook to Xbox, VoIP service will enhance Redmond’s product portfolio across the board.
Windows 8 Visual Tour: Microsoft's New Desktop
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Microsoft closed its $8.5 billion deal to acquire Skype on Thursday. Now Steve Ballmer and company need to set about integrating the VoIP specialist's products and technology with its own software. Here's a look at how Skype benefits Redmond's existing product lines.
1. Lync: Microsoft has already said it plans to add Skype connectivity to Lync. The service, available as client software or eventually through Office 365 in the cloud, presently allows business users to collaborate through voice and videoconferencing.
By adding Skype, Microsoft will extend Lync functionality so that users will be able to communicate not only with colleagues on Lync, but with virtually anyone on the Skype network, worldwide. IT departments will need to monitor usage and establish security policies.
2. Office Integration: It's quite likely that Microsoft will embed Skype technology in Office products like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The idea would be to allow users to launch a Skype session, possibly via SharePoint Server, directly from within a document for instant collaboration with team members.
That was the original idea behind Microsoft's acquisition of Ray Ozzie's Groove, but that technology was cumbersome and the idea never took off. Skype, as its millions of users can attests, is considerably more intuitive.
3. Voice Over Xbox: It's almost a given that Microsoft will add Skype service to Xbox Live, its online gaming and entertainment network. The service already supports messaging, but Skype would allow users to chat while playing a game or watching a movie.
There are also a number of commercial applications. When combined with the Kinect hands-free control system, Skype on Xbox could allow professionals in fields such as healthcare and engineering to remotely manipulate machinery while communicating with clients or patients.
4. Exchange Support: Watch for Microsoft to look for ways to enhance Exchange server and Outlook with Skype services. Opening a VoIP session from within Outlook would allow users to, in many cases, forego storage hogging e-mails and simply speak with friends, customers, or business partners.
Skype in Office would also afford a lite videoconferencing option for organizations that don't want the overhead or complexity associated with adding Lync to their operations.
5. Windows 8 Metro Apps: Microsoft plans to produce a version of Windows 8 that's optimized for tablets and runs on ARM's system-on-a-chip architecture. The interface borrows Windows Phone 7's Live Tiles GUI, which features customizable blocks that serve up real-time information from services like Facebook and Hotmail.
It's likely that the software maker will look to add a Skype app that could be launched directly from the Live Tiles homes screen and, like other Metro apps, fill the entire screen.
Some of this, of course, is speculation--as Microsoft, for regulatory reasons--has said little about what it plans to do with Skype. But now that the deal is official, the information spigot should open up.
"Skype is a phenomenal brand that is loved by hundreds of millions of people around the world," said CEO Steve Ballmer, in a statement. "We look forward to working with the Skype team to create new ways for people to stay connected to family, friends, clients, and colleagues—anytime, anywhere."
Microsoft shares were up 0.8%, to $27.40, in morning trading Friday.
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