While looking at the reactions to Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype, I found one tweet that really stood out:
— Ted Han (@knowtheory) May 11, 2011
While many users are busy joking about names (personally my money is on “Microsoft Live Skype” – my only hope is that there isn’t an “Ultimate Edition” or “Unicorn Edition” tacked to the end of the name) Microsoft has a significant problem, and I really hope they are looking at public reaction. Users are concerned; what will Microsoft do to the brand, and how will the brand and service change – users need to be reassured that what they love about the service won’t go away.
I use Skype on a daily basis, and for me this brings back memories of AOL’s failed acquisition of Nullsoft (the maker of WinAmp) in 1999, which took a great piece of software and a well-respected brand, and rendered it little better than RealPlayer (and don’t get me started on the Netscape acquisition). I can see this easily going down the same path; as the brand is diluted and merged with others to help boost their marketing goals, and the software is integrated tightly with other products (creating that tight, but invasive feel that the EU had so many issue with when they did it with IE); they could easily find themselves in the same position that eBay did back in 2007.
Microsoft desperately needs to build their online brand to recover the billions that they are losing, and I have to assume they see Skype as a key player in this quest; the question is can the keep their newly acquired user-base from jumping ship.
I don’t think Skype will live or die on technology at this point, I think PR is a far larger issue for them right now.