Microsoft's purchase of Skype for $8.5 billion was considered a risky move considering the failure of eBay's acquisition of Skype, which did not result in any synergies between these two companies. The New York Times gives some interesting insights into the inner workings of Skype within the Microsoft juggernaut. For one, the article states, "Microsoft gave Skype a longer leash than it grants most of its divisions, even allowing Mr. Bates to work in Silicon Valley." Apparently, Skype is the only Microsoft division located almost entirely outside Microsoft's Seattle-based headquarters.
The article goes on to explain that Tony Bates, the head of the Skype division, uses a Apple MacBook Air and not a Microsoft operating system. While it isn't unheard of for Microsoft employees to use other operating systems, certainly Tony Bates's high profile and allowing the NY Times to see he's using a non-Microsoft operating system certainly shows Microsoft is not as controlling as they were back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In fact, Tony Bates said that when new Skype hires get their new security badges from Microsoft, Bates insisted they have the Skype logo. He said, "We’ve kept our identity and our autonomy."
The article then discusses integration between Skype (consumer) and Microsoft Lync (enterprise). I've also covered the possibilities of this integration of Skype and Lync through the use of a web-based HTML5 app. Also, on the consumer-size they are hard at work at making Skype video conferencing work on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console. Still, Tony Bates said this integration is not likely this year. So that is a bit troubling, since the release of Windows 8 is this year and a lot of consumers will be buying Windows 8 tablets for the holiday season. Having Skype ready for Windows 8 before Christmas could be a huge driver of sales. Further, I can see a Windows 8 tablet having a huge enterprise play replacing expensive telepresence room-based systems and using a Windows 8 tablet running Skype and/or Lync. Nevertheless, Microsoft is committed to the Skype acquisition with 400 new job openings at Skype. Oh and if you cannot wait for Skype/Lync integration, you could try Blue Jeans Networks, which I reviewed.
One important benchmark Skype is aiming for is a preliminary version of Skype that runs on Windows 8, a touch-sensitive operating system with a cool Metro interface. I've already made a prediction (agreeing with Daring Fireball) that Windows 8 will rival the iPad. A Skype makeover that leverages some of the cool touch capabilities of Windows 8 just might be one piece of the puzzle Microsoft needs to take on the mighty iPad tablet.