I have been watching, with some fascination, the different takes on the Microsoft acquisition of Skype. In an interview on CNBC Steve Ballmer stressed heavily the growing role of Microsoft in the communications space as he dominated six of the seven minutes allocated to he and Skype CEO, Tony Bates.
The world’s press took different views on the most important features of the deal with some agreeing on my earlier take that the deal will be disruptive but unsure to what degree.
Wireless Week stated that “Microsoft said the acquisition will increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications, bringing benefits to both consumers and enterprise users and generating significant new business and revenue opportunities.”
Asher Moses for The Sydney Morning Herald wrote that “a Telstra spokeswoman said the telco had a long standing relationship with Microsoft and ‘don’t see this changing as a result of the proposed deal’.
“It is kind of a head scratcher to me how Microsoft is going to navigate the complicated relationships that it has to have with carriers at the same time as it is repositioning itself as a potentially major threat to their wireless voice business,” Craig Moffett, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co in New York, told Bloomberg.
“Australian telco analysts Foad Fadaghi, of Telsyte, and Mark Novosel, of IDC, both said they do not believe the deal would affect Microsoft’s relationships with carriers.
“I believe carriers will look for ways to differentiate their offering to the market and this deal may signal the beginning of appealing new voice services from Microsoft, which carriers will be willing to partner with and consumers will embrace,” said Novosel, adding that consumers would benefit as Windows Phone would now be in a better position to challenge services available on Google’s Android phones.
“Fadaghi said it was clear Microsoft had to pay a premium for Skype with rumours of Google and Facebook also being interested. He said Skype was as much about video communications as voice.
“It’s unlikely carriers will be as hostile as they were a few years ago. In fact it might be able to use its carrier relationships to create value for the ecosystem,” he said.
“The impact of Skype on carriers has been more on international call revenues, but strong competition from others such as calling cards and other VOIP services has also eroded this market.”
Michelle Donegan at Light Reading wrote that, “the bigger question, though, is what Microsoft might do with Skype. Could the VoIP application become part of its mobile platform and find itself embedded in Nokia’s smartphones?”
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, said yesterday that Microsoft and Skype have far more in common than Skype had with eBay since both companies are in the “communications business.” He said communications technologies have been “the backbone” of Microsoft’s growth in recent years and that Skype has “built a real business,” with more than $860 million in 2010 revenue. “Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world,” he said, his words highlighting that Microsoft plans to offer Skype services to both consumer and business markets.
Anthony Cox at Juniper Research wrote that “Microsoft’s decision to buy the VoIP and Mobile VoIP operator Skype for $8.5 billion represents an important tipping point for the voice communications industry and will accelerate changes that are already afoot in both the fixed, desktop and mobile voice markets. Here are some implications of the deal.
“First, ‘traditional’ operators, particularly in the US, will have to move quickly to avoid their revenues being cannibalized by VoIP and mobile VoIP services which bypass their networks. This is happening already, accounting for Sprint’s decision to form a tie-up with Google Voice in the US earlier this year, but the unequalled reach of the Microsoft operating system is likely to make it happen a lot faster and in all markets all at once.”
An interesting angle picked up the Wall Street Journal is that Microsoft plans to purchase the Luxemburg-based Skype with cash held overseas, money that it could not otherwise bring back to the U.S. without paying repatriation taxes of more than 30 percent. The majority of Microsoft’s roughly $50 billion in cash is held overseas. It sounds like there’s plenty more in the coffers.
It will be interesting to see how network operators and CSPs view the new combined Microsoft -Skype-Nokia alliance. Will it be beneficial to them or a major threat? Will they be reticent to resell Windows Phone 7/Nokia handsets embedded with Skype? What benefits, if any, will CSPs gain from the deal?