At first glance, Microsoft's whopping $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype may seem like a pure consumer play to bolster Windows Live, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox Kinect -- or an extremely expensive way to prevent Google from gobbling up Skype first.
It is in fact both of those things, according to industry analysts, but the Microsoft-Skype deal will also have an impact on enterprise users, particularly those who use unified communications daily as part of their jobs.
In addition to enhancing the telephony features of Microsoft Outlook and unified communications platform, Lync, the Skype purchase gives Microsoft an important weapon in "the consumerization of IT" and opens up video conferencing to more than just co-workers, according to Forrester research VP Ted Schadler.
Another Forrester analyst, Charles Golvin, says that although Microsoft will struggle to generate revenue from the Skype purchase, the companies' united technologies will tear down traditional communications walls.
"E-mail, instant messaging, and voice are becoming one massive river of communications," says Golvin, "and Skype and Microsoft will further unite communications, consumers and businesses."
So before you brush off Microsoft's most expensive acquisition ever as solely for consumers, consider these three reasons that a Microsoft-Skype union benefits the corporate user.
It's a 'Consumerization of IT' Winner
It's no secret that Skype is a consumer darling with a reported 600 million users, but it is also a "consumerization brand." It's a bridge technology people use to do video calls with grandma but also helps them do their jobs more effectively.
"Consumerization of IT is just people using familiar consumer tools to get work done," writes Forrester's Schadler in a blog post.
"Google and Apple and Skype have dominant consumerization brands. Microsoft does not -- until now. And as a bonus, Google doesn't get to buy Skype. And more importantly, neither does Cisco."
Another Cloud Service in Microsoft's Sky
With Skype, Microsoft has another cloud service to sell along with Office 365 and Windows Azure. Cloud services are an area where Microsoft needs to generate revenue quickly. Hence, Microsoft will monetize Skype's various features and deliver them to enterprise users.
"While it's true that Skype has been slow to make money off its service, the potential is there," writes Schadler. "Local phone numbers, three-way video conferencing, business administration, and making calls to real phone numbers are all things that people will pay for."
On its own, Skype has never had the money to market these services to businesses, adds Schadler. But Microsoft has both the money and the businesses.
More Video Conferencing ... that IT Can Control
With Microsoft's Lync platform, enterprise workers can make use of IM, voice, video calls and Web meetings, but they can only do so with other employees or company partners who are using Lync.
But with a gateway between Skype and Lync that IT can manage, workers can use Lync-to-Lync to connect to colleagues and Lync-to-Skype to call, video call or IM with anyone who has Skype, including customers, partners and friends.
You can do all this today in your work environment just using Skype, says Schadler, but only if IT looks the other way. A Lync-to-Skype gateway allows IT to manage more open video conferencing between different technologies.
"With a Microsoft-sanctioned solution, IT could sign off on the practice," writes Schadler.