Skype has managed to maintain a degree of independence from Microsoft following its $8.5 billion acquisition by the company, and more importantly, has managed to grow its base to nearly 250 million users, a 26 percent jump over the past seven months, according to the New York Times.
“We’ve kept our identity and our autonomy,” Tony Bates, former Skype CEO and now president of Microsoft’s Skype division. He has demanded Skype-specific ID cards for his employees instead of Microsoft cards, and he uses a MacBook air in his office. Microsoft also allowed Bates to continue to work from his office in Silicon Valley. Skype is the only Microsoft division that is located almost entirely outside of Microsoft’s home base in Seattle.
Skype has successfully managed to keep its software available to all devices, not just Microsoft products, creating software for Google’s Android phones, Apple mobile devices, Comcast set-top boxes and a Sony portable game console. Skype remains the fourth most downloaded iPad and iPhone app of all time.
When Microsoft acquired the company a year ago, many feared it would dwarf into a communication platform for only Microsoft products, similar to how Apple’s purchase of Facetime has limited that software to Apple products. Most of Skype’s users are mobile, a category in which Microsoft continues to struggle.
It remains to be seen if Microsoft can interconnect the Skype product in its product portfolio to provide a superior Skype experience. Providing a better service through Microsoft is the only way the company can justify its $8.5 billion acquisition price tag.
Skype is scheduled to release a version of its software specifically designed for Windows 8, a Microsoft overhaul designed to work better with touchscreen computers. Microsoft also plans to integrate Skype into Lync, a Microsoft product designed for business communication. It also plans to integrate Skype conferencing into Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Console, though its not expected to be released this year.
Skype needs to avoid the deal devolving similarly to its previous sale to eBay for $2.6 billion in 2005, which spun off Skype into a separate company with new investors when synergies with eBay failed to get off the ground.
Yet Skype continues to struggle to offer a superior experience contingent to Microsoft. It recently released a version of its calling software for smartphones running Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system, yet the software would no longer receive calls when Windows users shut the application down, despite working fine on iPhones and other devices. Microsoft has indicated that feature will be fixed in a future version of the software.