Ballmer: we’ll support Skype on non-Microsoft platforms
Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer has pledged that Skype will continue to support non-Microsoft platforms, following his company’s $8.5 billion takeover of the VoIP firm.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Skype CEO Tony Bates, Ballmer said that Microsoft was “committed to the Skype user base, today and in the future.”
“We will continue to support Skype on non-Microsoft platforms,” the Microsoft CEO added.
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When pressed in a post-conference Q&A on the degree of support that will be offered for rival platforms such as the iPhone, Android and Mac OS X, Ballmer stated: “I said it and I mean it. We will continue to support non-Microsoft platforms.
“We’ve got a track record,” the Microsoft boss added. “Look at the work we’ve done over the years on Office for the Mac.”
Skype CEO Bates – who will now become the president of Microsoft’s new Skype division – said that continued cross-platform support was “fundamental to the deal”.
Ballmer said Microsoft plans to introduce Skype across a variety of the company’s products, including MSN Messenger, Hotmail, Xbox and the associated Kinect controller.
He also spoke of business opportunities for Skype, including integration with Microsoft Office and the company’s recently launched unified comms software Lync.
Despite boasting almost 700 million downloads of its software and 170m active users, Skype continues to run at a loss. However, Ballmer and Bates outlined future revenue opportunities for the partnership, including video advertising in the Skype Windows client.
Mobile video calls were another potential revenue driver, according to Ballmer. “It’s pretty obvious today that not everybody is using video participation from their phone – that’s an opportunity,” he added.
Microsoft will acquire Skype for $8.5 billion in cash, subject to regulatory approval. Ballmer said the two companies were talking about a potential advertising partnership when Microsoft realised that it would rather own the firm outright.
“We’ve known Skype for quite a while,” said Ballmer, remarking that it wasn’t the first time the company had been put up for sale. “Skype was on a path to an IPO [initial public offering] and we said ‘hey, we think it would be better if we owned the company’.”
Nevertheless, speaking after Ballmer’s speech at a press conference in London, Skype executives insisted the VoIP firm will continue to operate as a separate entity. “We want to be independent, we want to run as an independent team,” said Neil Stevens, vice president of global consumer at Skype.
The ever-excitable Microsoft boss typically failed to quell his enthusiasm for the Skype deal. “This a very, very significant go-forward opportunity,” Ballmer added. “In case it’s not clear, I’m very excited about the Skype business.”
Ballmer’s relatives might be a little less enthused about the deal, given the Microsoft CEO’s parting thoughts on potential uses for Skype, including “school meetings, PTAs” and after a thoughtful pause “family reunions”.