The fact that Microsoft would want to integrate Skype everywhere shouldn’t be too surprising, Office/Lync and Windows Phone are obvious areas and so is Xbox. That’s why news of the company looking for engineers who can delve into the hybrid world of video games and IP communications shouldn’t be too surprising.
When Microsoft integrates Skype into Xbox and bundles some free calling into the solution, what’s to stop them from offering a DECT phone as well? With retail prices of DECT 6.0 phones starting at less than $20, the idea makes more and more sense.
Sure, you can use a cordless/wireless phone with Skype today but if Microsoft integrates it all seamlessly and video is added for free, what happens to the business models of Ooma, netTALK and magicJack?
And what about the cable companies, AT&T and Verizon? Sure, a Skype home phone calling solution will be inferior as it doesn’t allow emergency calling due to a lack of E-911 support but still, if it is part of a bundle and has HD voice support, why pay for phone company or cable calling? Especially if it has video as well and other great Skype calling features, presence, etc.
Additionally, a benefit of the Skype purchase will be potentially becoming the phone provider for hundreds of millions of consumers. Of course Skype already has hundreds of millions of users but when I say “phone” I mean the actual physical phone, not the computer to computer experience.
Moreover, if Microsoft is successful, it will be achieving what Cisco couldn’t with Umi. And remember, one of the reasons I said Umi wouldn’t make it was because of Xbox Kinect. I also mentioned Skype’s deal with Panasonic, Sony and others as another reason. It would be ironic if Skype and Xbox together were to fulfill the market niche Umi was looking to exploit.
The challenge for Microsoft is the tablet market – which today means iPad, is eating the video game space. So the next version of Xbox better have some really compelling features to draw the gamers back. I would think they believe tight Skype integration will be one of these features.