Microsoft’s Skype division this morning confirmed that the company will be retiring its Windows Live Messenger service and shifting users to Skype for instant messaging and video calls. The news, first rumored yesterday, was announced this morning in a post by Tony Bates, the top Skype executive.

“We want to focus our efforts on making things simpler for our users while continuously improving the overall experience,” writes Bates. “We will retire Messenger in all countries worldwide in the first quarter of 2013 (with the exception of mainland China where Messenger will continue to be available).”

It’s the end of the era for one of Microsoft’s most widely used online services, but it’s not a huge surprise, given the $8.5 billion that Microsoft spent to acquire Skype.

Messenger users can make the transition to Skype by installing or upgrading to the latest version on Windows PCs and Macs and signing in using their Microsoft accounts, formerly known as Windows Live IDs. The company says Messenger contacts will be imported to Skype automatically. (I just made the upgrade and it worked for me.)

The change will be an adjustment for some Messenger users — the Skype interface is more tuned toward video calling, with instant messaging as more of an afterthought, whereas Messenger’s focus was instant messaging first, centered around a buddy list and status notifications. Those elements are there in Skype, just not as prominently displayed.

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  • Eric Peters

    Interesting, wonder if Skype will add support for unified messaging clients like Adium has for MSN/Live/Whatever it is Messenger

    • Forrest Corbett

      That’s actually the main reason I don’t use Skype that often. I <3 Adium

  • Guest

    Nice! I like this strategy, a very bold move that underscores Microsoft’s commitment to making Skype a viable part of the broader business strategy. Italics.

    • guest

      What’s bold about this decision? MS buying Skype was already an admission that decades of its own expensive efforts in messenging and voip, many of which were technically superior, failed to gain the share or brand awareness of Skype. This is just the logical next step. A “strategy” would be something that showed how any of this is going to make a profit sufficient to not only recover the $8.5 billion paid and billions more spent to “upgrade” Skype’s infrastructure, but to make it a wise investment overall?

      • Guest

        Wikipedia says Live Messenger had 300 million active users per month, and I think Skype had 124 million active users per month. I think it’s less an admission that Messenger failed and more that Messenger and Skype have different users who use the product in different ways (Messenger may have more IMs, but Skype dominates on video calls), and combining the audiences and functionality can make both better if they don’t screw it up.

        • guest

          Good point. It likely also helps MS justify the Skype price tag. Otherwise they might be under more pressure to write at least some of it down, as they did for aQuantive.

  • Christopher Budd

    File under: Really F’ing annoying.

    Once you do the merge, your messenger contacts are part of your Skype address book.

    If you’re like me and last used Messenger ages ago, this means you’ve got old contacts now in your address book.

    Here’s the fun: you can’t delete them within Skype. I’ve spent 15 minutes trying to find a way to do this to no avail. I guess I’m going to have to go and download messenger, clean up my contacts there and hope that the deadwood contacts will go away.

    Stupid. Very stupid.

    • Forrest Corbett

      Or, some of us segment out users based on who they are. Eg, I have frequently used Skype for work but used MSN/.Net/Live Messenger for chatting with people from online connections many years ago. Different contexts. Doesn’t really support multiple accounts, and certainly not like Messenger does.

    • Jeremy

      Stupid? How about the 300 million active users per month who use messenger every day? What would they say if they had to manually add 50-100 new contacts in Skype? I personally love that I don’t have to do anything!

      • Christopher Budd

        The stupid part isn’t the merge it’s that post merge you can’t manipulate contacts within Skype, leading to a search to figure out how to do it.

        • Jeremy

          I’m surprised to hear you are unable to manipulate contacts directly in Skype. If I right-click on any contact I get the option to “Remove from Contacts”. Do you have the latest version installed?

    • guest

      it is stupid, but then so was merging your Messenger list before cleaning it up.

  • Lawrence Lam

    Is Skype not allowed in China? Why do they keep it around there?

  • Esteban Cazadorez

    Oh well..

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