pulling the plug on Windows Live Messenger on March 15th in favor of its latest acquisition, Skype. While not much of an improvement the cries of the old guard of Internet social interaction bemoan the transition to a platform seemingly made worse by Microsoft's acquisition.
Skype has become a staple of streaming podcasts in the past few years which while buggy was still adequate for real time interaction. Once Microsoft picked it up for a cool 8.5 billion in 2011 it was obvious that it was to be the centerpiece of a new social strategy. To that point, disparate applications usually woefully lacking left those in the Microsoft centric universe looking elsewhere.
Of course as with any new acquisition Microsoft had to put their stamp on it. A move that many podcasters (the most vocal group) found irritating if not debilitating. Many of whom refused to upgrade from the Pre-Microsoft version of the application when "new" features effectively locked them out of their livelihood.
It was still better than Live Messenger though. A leftover from the days when AOL's instant Messenger (AIM) was the de facto IM client of record. As it aged, it became the foundation for Microsoft's Office Communications manager (Lync) for corporate centered messaging. For casual users it could be counted on to fail at inopportune moments often forcing a reboot to regain functionality.
Skype can make (mostly) free phone calls too, a feature messenger could never hope to achieve on its creaky underpinnings. If we want to peer into our crystal ball, it's not inconceivable for Microsoft to be eyeing Skype as a professional VOIP solution. That would provide them with a viable alternative to offerings from companies like Cisco and RingCentral. Not unlike the DirectAccess product meant to replace VPN's from Cisco and Checkpoint.
If you were wondering why Microsoft has decided to put Messenger out to pasture, look no further than the balance sheet. Messenger's features are free for the most part, Skype's are not. Even with free accounts, regular use eventually demands a credit card with subtle reminders in the app of how much better your life would be if you'd just "upgrade" your experience to the paid version.
So while today spelled out mandatory retirement for our cranky old social companion, we can look forward to the equal annoyance of Skype to salve (or open) our wounds.
Where's open source when you need it..