Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Microsoft buys Skype, Still good news for Facebook

Contrary to the rumor mill about Facebook and Google negotiating a Skype deal, its Microsoft which walked away with the deal. According to Reuters, Microsoft has been Skype have been in the discussion for the past 6 weeks. Apparently even Cisco was in the race to buy Skype. With a close partnership with Microsoft, this is still a good deal. A partnership for providing voice and video service to all 600-700 million Facebook users should become a reality now.

Here are some interesting articles about the deal:

Om Malik has some interesting insights:
Why Microsoft is buying Skype for 8 billion
Kinect + Skype = Video Calling Magic
From Mary Jo Foley here
From Kara Swisher
Investors slam Microsoft Skype deal

Below is the email from CEO Steve Ballmer:

“Today we announced an agreement to acquire Skype, the leading Internet communications company. You can see the full details here. Pending regulatory review, Tony Bates, CEO of Skype, will report to me as President of our newly formed Skype Division.
“This is a big step forward today for Microsoft and Skype, and one that has substantial benefits for our joint consumer and business customers. On its own, Skype is a powerful consumer brand with more than 170 million connected users, synonymous in many places around the world with voice and video communications. We will help them grow even stronger..
“By bringing together the best of Microsoft with the best of Skype, we will drive a new era in communications. We see a huge desire to do more with video, to make it easier for people to connect from multiple devices, to move from chat to phone to video and back in a way that is easy, natural, and human. We see with Kinect the power of using the biggest screen in the house – the living room TV screen – as the place where people connect with friends and families. We see with Windows Phone 7 the way communication moves from personal to professional in a blink of the eye. And we know that people want more connection and richer communication, across many devices and around the world.
“Together, Microsoft and Skype will deliver that kind of communication and connection. In the future, Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and we will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live, Messenger and other communities. I want to call out the success we have had with the introduction of Lync specifically and the value of connecting that to a consumer community of Skype. And we’ll continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.
“Today’s announcement underscores who we are as a company. We are ambitious and forward looking. We have big goals and aspirations. And when we look into the world and see opportunities to do more with technology, we’ll drive toward them and keep pushing. Sometimes we’ll build ourselves, as we’ve done most recently with Bing and Kinect.
“Sometimes we’ll partner or form an alliance to seize the moment, as we’ve done with Yahoo! and Nokia. And other times we’ll make an acquisition, as we’ve announced today – one that plays to both company’s strengths and opens new opportunities not available otherwise.

“Exciting times!

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Facebook should Buy Skype not Google

There is a strong rumor circulating in the blogosphere about Facebook and Google negotiating a buyout/partnership with Skype. Skype is planning an IPO sometimes second half of this year. Looks like these strategic discussions might jeopardize the IPO route. Maybe they are looking for a different exit than IPO. Either way it’s going to be good news for Skype investors. Now coming back to who should Skype align with? It makes lot of sense for Facebook to buy/partner with Skype instead of Google. Off course Google is better positioned in terms of who can milk more than half a billion users than Facebook. Beyond that I don’t see any synergy between Google and Skype.

Here is why I think it makes more sense for Facebook to acquire Skype:

• Enhance their messaging platform with support for Voice and Video powered by Skype. Off course facebook can develop its own Voice and Video infrastructure. Too me it’s a stretch. Instead by buying Skype they get instant access to VoIP/SMS/Video features
• Support Voice/Video will boost the messaging platform, which doesn’t seem to have gained much traction
• With Skype Acquisition they also get QIK Live streaming capabilities. That’s an added plus
• Instant Access to more than 500 million users. The chances of Skype users having Facebook account are high. There might be an overlap
• Facebook can really become a global operator providing Voice/SMS/Video/IM communication to all its users. Off course PSTN access will still be short coming, a partnership with one of the operator can offset this shortcoming
• A Facebook phone becomes a reality. Most of the operators are moving towards 4G/LTE, it’s a matter of time that all Voice calls will be carried via IP network. With a partnership with one of the access network, facebook’s ambitious phone becomes a reality. So constant monthly revenue for basic phone service becomes a reality. Voila!
• Patronize Innovation by opening up the Skype platform for developers (Telco 2.0 Platform). Something similar to Twilio, Voxeo etc
• Who said Facebook is only for Consumer market, with Skype acquisition they can venture into Enterprise market and become a threat to some of the incumbent Video/VoIP provider like Avaya, Cisco etc
• According to CDC Straw Poll 75% of the companies will adopt , Video Conferencing by 2012. Skype already supports consumer video conferencing which can be extended /enhanced for enterprise
• Voice conferencing is another big Enterprise feature. So armed with these powerful features, facebook can look beyond consumer market
• It makes sense to have different revenue stream instead of relying only on advertisements
• Everybody wants a piece of Facebooks social graph including operators. T-Mobiles recently launched Bobsled, a one touch calling within Facebook. In fact Facebook can do a better job than Third Party service providers.

Here is why I think it doesn’t make sense for Skype to go with Google:

• Google already has its own VoIP client (Google Talk), which supports SMS/Voice/Video. They recently launched video calling for android .
• Has partnership with sprint for Google Voice. So they are ahead of the curve in terms to infrastructure and partnership
• Except for the number of users they get access to most of the technology and infrastructure becomes redundant. Iam not discounting the P2P arch of Skype. That’s a big asset to own. P2P has its own issues with respect to Lawful Intercept and security to name a few.
• Google is already competing with Skype. It would have made sense if Skype was a small player where in Google could have acquired them and killed the product. That’s not the case here. Skype is the biggest Global VoIP player in the market.
• They have in-house VoIP technical expertise inherited with the acquisition of Grand Central and Gizmo.

I would love to see a Facebook Skype acquisition/partnership. Let me know what you folks think.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

3Jam Group Messaging startup Acquired or Fire Sale

Well not sure if 3Jam is the first victim of Group Messaging war. From their website it looks like they have been purchased. There is no news about the company that bought 3Jam. It just says that the intellectual property has been purchased . Being in the startup industry for so long “IPR” buyout is not a very positive exit. 3JAM was one of the early bird in Group Messaging space. Too me it looks like a fire sale. I had written about 3Jam way back in 2007. According to Forbes blog , the Ceo of the company has been hired as a senior product manager at Skype. Does it mean 3Jam was acquired by Skype?

Finding little traction in the Group Messaging space, 3Jam tried getting into different product direction. In fact they even tried imitating Google Voice type features . Iam not sure how many subscribers were using 3Jam Google Voice type feature. I doubt it was anything significant.

The Group Messaging space has been gaining lot of momentum. There are so many companies( GroupMe, Beluga, FastSociety, WhatsApp, Kik, Yobongo, Disco, TextPlus etc) going after the big billion dollar SMS/MMS market. These are all new crop of companies that started just a year back. Most of these companies have been well funded and are seeing good traction. Even Facebook is betting big in the Messaging space. They recently acquired Beluga, another Group Messaging startup. But group messaging is not something new that has been invented recently. There were lot of Group Messaging companies that started( 3Jam, Peekamo, Moblabber, Swarmteams, Zemble, Joopz etc) in 2005-2007 timeframe with little or no success. What changed now? I guess back then it was all about regular mobile handset with clunky/awful messaging user interface. All that changed after the launch of iPhone and the Androids. The UI on these phones are very intuitive and easy to use. Also the App store business model changed the way people communicate with each other. You can send and receive SMS/MMS messages using some of these apps without paying a penny to the operator provided you have a data package. There is a fundamental shift in the way people communicate with each other.

Here is the message posted on 3Jam website:

May 2, 2011
We are happy to announce that the intellectual property underlying 3jam's products and services have been purchased.
Since launching 3jam in 2006, we've appreciated all of the enthusiasm of our users, partners, and investors who have supported our service and helped us grow to nearly four million users globally!
We are proud to be one of the first companies to launch group messaging and a virtual number product that has enabled people to bring their landline and wireless numbers into the cloud. 3jam has been committed to providing innovative and efficient ways for people to communicate, and we are looking forward to seeing these technologies further developed and delivered in a new strategic direction.
3jam's web site and service will be shut down in the coming months, with details on that transition plan to be provided at a later date. Please stay tuned.

Enlai Chu
3jam, Inc.

Stay tuned for more juicy details.

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