Microsoft’s name emerged this weekend as a potential suitor of Skype, following a report last week that Facebook and Google were talking with the iconic Internet communications company about a partnership or acquisition. Om Malik today quotes anonymous sources saying that “Microsoft has entered the mix and is interested in either partnering with, acquiring or investing in Skype.”
Om cites a number of reasons why a connection Microsoft connection would make sense, noting the ways that Skype could give Microsoft a boost, particularly in the mobile industry. However, it’s worth noting that Skype would stand to benefit from a deal with Microsoft, as well. That’s because one of Microsoft’s strengths is selling software and services to businesses — an area where Skype has big aspirations.
“We believe the enterprise communications market represents a large opportunity for Skype. Approximately 37% of over 40,000 of our connected users surveyed in the first quarter of 2010 told us that they use our product platform occasionally or often for business-related purposes. We believe there is a significant opportunity to better serve the communications needs of the small and medium enterprise segment, as well as larger enterprise customers, by focusing on user needs in this market and developing additional products specifically tailored to enterprise users.”
Microsoft has long been focused on that area, and it has been making strides through its Lync unified communications platform (formerly Office Communications Server), which combines instant messaging, video conferencing, voice calling and other features. Microsoft said Lync experienced 30% growth in the most recent quarter, part of a strong showing overall for the Microsoft Business Division.
In effect, Skype and Microsoft are largely complementary. A partnership with Microsoft could help Skype make inroads in the enterprise market. At the same time, Skype could help Microsoft expand its Internet communications footprint through the strength of the Skype brand among consumers.
Another potentially significant motivation for Microsoft: Keeping Skype out of the hands of Google (and, to a lesser extent, Facebook, in which Microsoft has a minority interest).
Also interesting: David Gurle, the vice president in charge of Skype Enterprise, worked previously in Microsoft’s real-time communications and collaboration group.
For the record, Microsoft isn’t commenting on the various Skype reports today.