This news that millions of Microsoft Live Messenger users were dreading (but realized was inevitable) has arrived, Live Messenger is out.
Microsoft announced that Skype has replaced the Live Messenger chat service. Skype, as you may know, was acquired by Microsoft a year ago and was the focal point of the recent Windows Phone 8 launch event.
Skype allows users to communicate with peers over the Internet by voice using a microphone, webcam-based video and instant messaging. Phone calls may be placed to recipients on the traditional telephone networks. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free of charge, while calls to landlines and mobile phones are charged via a debit-based user account system.
Skype’s 600 million users made it a more ubiquitous option than Live Messenger and it is clearly more sophisticated and capable to boot. Certainly, the $8.5 billion Microsoft lavished on Skype told us it was always meant for center stage.
With new focus on Skype to deliver VoIP telephony, chat and messenger service, as well as video delivery, it will give Microsoft a platform to challenge Apple’s FaceTime for iOS and OS X, RIM’s Blackberry Messenger service, and Google’s Google Voice and Hangout service for voice, chat, telephony, and video.
Given that FaceTime is currently limited to Apple’s desktop and mobile platforms, BlackBerry Messenger limited to BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, and Google’s cross-platform Hangout that works on Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac, Skype’s multi-platform service may help Windows Phone 8 and Windows users communicate with those not using Microsoft’s platform
So the battle begins, the key being that Skype can be used on all platforms and is not dependent on Microsoft’s still-small share of the tablet and smartphone markets.
On the business front, Skype launched Skype in the workspace (SITW), a new online platform for small businesses to instantly connect with potential customers, partners and suppliers across the globe. Microsoft describes SITW this way:
The free-to-use tool makes use of the huge network already offered by Skype, allowing millions of small businesses to promote their products and services to new networks and connections. Users can improve existing connections and establish new ones by instantly sending messages and talking to or meeting face-to-face with peers and business prospects over Skype.
They go on to declare their vision for Skype in the business community;
SITW will provide a central hub for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses to connect with experts, coaches and consultants who can help them develop their businesses. Users join the community using their existing Skype accounts, then through a series of promotional tools can create public “offers” or “opportunities” inviting community members to live sessions on Skype to demonstrate services or products to a wider audience. Users can also book appointments with potential customers or suppliers and keep track of them with a meeting notification service. When an opportunity is over, users can instantly give testimonials on the product or service offered.
Interesting push by Microsoft, replacing Live Messenger with now-highly-visible Skype and making a major play in the business arena. As usual it ties in with seeking a major foothold in the tablet/smartphone arena and persuading business that all their platforms should be harmonized around Windows.