May 19, 2011

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Like many, including Bill Gates, I think Microsoft’s purchase of Skype  will be a boon for the company’s presence in the wireless and home video chat space. But, of course, the company isn’t exactly a newcomer in the instant messaging and video chat space. It was early to market with NetMeeting, and for the past few years has been pushing forward on Windows Live – nee MSN — Messenger, now part of Windows Live Essentials, which Microsoft positioned as the rapidly evolving part of Windows before Microsoft it mandated that Windows itself needed to evolve much more rapidly. (I suppose Windows Live Essentials will now be the part of Windows that most now evolve at ludicrous speed.)

Windows Live Messenger has attracted a large audience itself. On the software’s tenth anniversary in 2009, Microsoft shared that Windows Live Messenger it had 330 million active users per month.. We haven’t, however, seen a lot of detail on what will happen to Windows Live Messenger after the Skype acquisition. Steve Ballmer didn’t mention the offering once during the press conference although it did appear on a slide. There was also a reference to providing Skype additional talent resources. Clearly the Live Messenger team would be prime for picking there.

The Windows Live Messenger installed base may add significantly to Skype’s already massive installed user footprint. Ultimately, however, and putting aside infrastructure, Skype’s superior cross-platform progress is critical for any cross-platform chat and collaboration platform. Microsoft’s MacBU had created a wisely renamed version of Messenger for the Mac, but now Microsoft will be able to tap into a wider array of handsets and put more pressure on Apple to bring FaceTime outside of Apple’s own devices.

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