If you are a home-based or other small business or franchise owner who is already using some type of free, internet-based form of telephony (aka VoIP or voice over IP) to get the job done, consider yourself not only smart, but light years ahead when it comes to business-to-business communications. For those of you who are still on the fence and refuse to believe that this kind of technology will inevitably replace your existing telephone system, the announcement this past week that Microsoft intends to purchase Skype for $8.5 billion in cash may be all the impetus you need to get on board.
Although it is not the only service that offers free Internet voice-over and videoconferencing services, Skype is arguably the industry leader when it comes to brand recognition. With more than 170 million connected users and over 207 billion minutes of voice and video conversations in 2010 and growing, Skype is indisputably a pioneer in the fast-growing Internet-based communications industry. Its proposed purchaser, Microsoft is of course an industry behemoth in its own right, with a considerable assortment of software products and applications that are used by hundreds of millions of people the world over in any given day.
Taken together, these two industry giants have their sights set on revolutionizing the way individuals and businesses communicate on a global scale. “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,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a statement released my Microsoft on May 10.
Thus far, Skype’s applications have been limited to personal computers and have been made available on smartphones only recently. Applications like at-home videoconferencing on digital televisions are also very much in the works. The inevitable integration of Skype’s considerable technological advancements with Microsoft’s various platforms will, according to industry analysts and experts, surely hasten the mainstream adoption of video-based communications by not only individuals, but businesses as well.
According to Brian Proffitt, an adjunct professor in the business college at the University of Notre Dame and a veteran technology journalist/analyst, “The integration…will directly impact the small business owner first, since Skype functionality in Windows Phone 7 may give the beleaguered platform enough of a push in the marketplace that small businesses will start using the devices in the workplace.”
Given the tremendous marketing prowess of Microsoft, Proffitt’s bottom-line prediction is that the Microsoft-Skype deal will serve to greatly enhance consumer familiarity with VoIP and increase overall comfort levels when it comes to using this growing and cost-effective communications technology at home and at work. “For good or ill, the Skype acquisition will firmly shove Internet telephony out into the spotlight,” he says, specifically addressing business owners in a recent blog post. “If you haven’t considered VoIP before to talk to customers, vendors and suppliers, you will probably want to start considering it.”