Len Klie

Another Hurdle for Microsoft/Skype? Probably Not!

The $8.5 billion acquisition of VoIP and video calling service provider Skype by Microsoft last year has already closed. It received approval from American regulators last summer and the European Union four months ago, but Cisco Systems just can’t seem to let it go.

Cisco has appealed to the General Court of the European Union to take another look at the deal, Microsoft’s biggest to date, asking regulators to impose greater interoperability standards that would force Skype to work with other videoconferencing offerings. Cisco has just such an offering. Messagenet, a European VoIP service provider based in Italy, has joined in the appeal.

Microsoft has said that it plans to integrate Skype, which has nearly 700 million subscribers worldwide, exclusively with its Lync Enterprise Communications Platform.

“Imagine how difficult it would be if you were limited to calling people who only use the same carrier or if your phone could only call certain brands and not others,” Marthin DeBeer, senior vice president of Cisco’s video and collaboration group, wrote in a recent blog post on the company’s Web site. “Cisco wants to avoid this future for video communications.

“Our goal is to make video calling as easy and seamless as email is today. Making a video-to-video call should be as easy as dialing a phone number. Today, however, you can’t make seamless video calls from one platform to another, much to the frustration of consumers and business users alike,” DeBeer’s post continued. “Cisco believes that the right approach for the industry is to rally around open standards. We believe standards-based interoperability will accelerate innovation, create economic value, and increase choice for users of video communications, entertainment, and services.”

I certainly commend Cisco for coming out in favor of interoperability. That would surely benefit the consumer and business user. But I also have to ask where has Cisco been all this time? When has Microsoft ever been known for the interoperability of any of its products?

Not surprisingly, neither Microsoft nor Skype use technologies that are interoperable with other video and calling services. Skype is, however,  compatible not only with Microsoft Windows but also the Mac and Linux operating systems and supports Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices as well as other mobile devices on the Nokia, Symbian, BlackBerry, and Android mobile platforms, and even works with Sony’s PlayStation Portable and Comcast’s HDTV service.

So does the appeal have much of a chance? Probably not. As Microsoft pointed out in a statement of its own: “The European Commission conducted a thorough investigation of the acquisition, in which Cisco actively participated, and approved the deal in a 36-page decision without any conditions.”