Back in April, I fanned some flames by suggesting that Microsoft needed an iMessage of its own—a free, baked-in messaging app that can serve as a communication hub across the far-flung Windows platforms, drawing in users from the mish-mash of communications services that exist today. Apple has iMessage. Google has Hangouts. Microsoft, I argued, should lean on Skype, which it bought in 2011.
Now it is.
Over the past weeks and months, Microsoft announced that native Skype integration is coming to Windows 8.1, the Outlook.com website, and, yes, even the Xbox One console. Microsoft websites will have Skype! Microsoft consoles will have Skype! Microsoft PCs and tablets will have Skype!
But there's a fly in this cross-device ointment. The one Microsoft platform that both needs native Skype integration the most and provides the best fit for native Skype integration doesn't bake in the service by default: namely, Windows Phone.
Yes, a Skype app is available for Microsoft's phone platform, but it's not installed on phones by default, as it is with PCs, tablets, and the Xbox. And it's all because of greed, grudges, and fear.
Why Windows Phone needs Skype
Even before the en masse rollout begins, Skype can already scratch almost any communications itch, and the service is an utter star on mobile devices. Its users can sling free instant messages and phone calls around to other Skypers, or even engage in totally gratis video chats.
Soon, all Windows 8, Outlook.com, and Xbox Live users will be able to tap into those killer features, and a native, front-and-center Skype app for Windows Phone could offer even more. The Windows Phone Skype app already sinks deep hooks into the system's People app; a native app could go even further. Like iMessage, a native Skype app could hook into your phone's text messaging and be configured to automatically use the service rather than SMS whenever possible. But why stop there? If Skype were baked into Windows Phone, it could do the same for voice calls.
That not only appeals to users—who doesn't like to save some scratch?—but a baked-in Skype app could be a boost to the struggling Windows Phone platform, too, as "free calls, video chats, and text messaging with all Windows and Xbox users" is a pretty impressive selling point.
Indeed, sowing Skype's seeds into Windows Phone would benefit Windows Phone users, Windows Phone itself, Skype, and pretty much everyone who uses any Microsoft service anywhere. And Microsoft knows it: The company's announcement of Skype integration for Windows 8.1 came as part of a heavy "One Microsoft, all the time" PR push, touting the ability of Microsoft's cloud to deliver must-have services across its entire range of devices.
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