Microsoft Buys Skype: Reignites Old Rivalries

One of the storied tales of the technology and business boom over the last 30 years has been the rivalry between Apple and Microsoft. In the early days both worked hard at creating products that would capture the market place. They thrived off of each others success and failures and worked competitively against each other to push forward technology.

But the competition wasn’t always equal. During the early ’90s Apple struggled as Microsoft thrived. There was even a point when the future of Apple was in question. At that point the company brought back one of its founders, Steve Jobs, to help recharge the company. One of Steve’s first acts was to reach out to his rival, Bill Gates, and ask for help. In 1996, Apple received a $150m investment from Microsoft and made other agreements with the company to help stabilize the future of Apple Computers.

The movie Pirates of Silicon Valley captured the scene where Steve Jobs announced the “partnership” between the rivals accurately and included the boos of reporters and fans when the news was shared.

Since that initial investment Apple has had success after success with its iPod line, increased Mac sales, and mobile products while Microsoft started to struggle. The last 5 years has been more difficult for Microsoft as they’ve fought for relevance in a world dominated by the internet and mobile products, two areas where Microsoft has not had much success. Google has emerged as a third big player in the computer and internet industry and Facebook is doing everything it can to be the fourth member at the table. The rivalry between Apple and Microsoft has weakened as new rivalries have been born between other tech start-ups.

But today, with Microsoft’s purchase of Skype, the rivalry is being reignited. Microsoft is now the new owner of a very successful communications platform that is in direct competition with Apple’s year old FaceTime service.

Skype on Apple Devices

Skype, in my opinion, is one of the best communication apps available on iOS devices. Calls seem as if you’re calling with a standard mobile phone, video chat is clear and enjoyable, and it integrates well with the device. This all may change with Microsoft’s purchase of the software.

In 1996, with their investment in Apple, Microsoft promised to keep developing Office for Apple computers. To this date they still release Microsoft Office for Mac. Unfortunately its usually a year or two behind the PC versions, doesn’t always have the same user interface, and often lacks a feature or two you’d love to have. My guess is that we’ll start seeing the same level of support for Skype on the Mac and iOS device.

FaceTime vs. Skype

The FaceTime vs. Skype debate started before Microsoft purchased the communications software company. But, at the time Skype was also a featured application on Apple products including their Mac desktop line and iOS devices. Many people viewed Skype and FaceTime as tools they could use interchangeably. This may not always be the case as Microsoft is believed to be planning on packaging Skype with their Windows Live product line . A product line that many believe is slowly dieing on Apple devices.

Apple, with FaceTime, doesn’t have nearly the user-base of Skype but the number of FaceTime ready devices continues to increase by the millions. Each iPad and iPhone device moving forward will include Facetime as a native feature and Apple’s media campaigns will continue to do a great job of selling the ease of use features of FaceTime.

Video calling and communications is the future. Apple realized this a year ago with FaceTime and it seems that Microsoft is going all in with their purchase of Skype. The next few years will be exciting as the two tech giants once again compete with top of the line products.  How important do you think Video Communications will be in the future of both companies?