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Can Microsoft Bundle Skype into WinPho? [ask the readers]

As David K just scooped, Microsoft locked in the Skype deal but baby I’ve got questions. Since the buyout announcement it’s struck many of you as obvious that Microsoft would race to bundle Skype with Windows Phone as soon as they could code a Metro patina onto it which shouldn’t be too hard, right? You feel like it’s a big puzzle piece that’s finally about to be put into place, Skype has a million billion customers, big brand, calls phones, receives calls, video, sanctioned and embraced and pushed everywhere fast by Microsoft – I get it.

What I’m not sure about however is if the incentive of additional consumer appeal a full-fledged embedded Skype client with the logos on the boxes and sales slips and commercials would offer Windows Phone would not be outweighed by problems, some of which strike me as being gravely concerning and dealbreakers of sorts.

But I don’t everything. I admit that. Better run it by you.

My question is do you really think Skype as you know it, as it is on iPhone and Android and iPads and Macs and PCs, will be standard issue out of the box on WPs in a matter of months? Or not until WP gains traction? Or never “as you know it” but only in a substantially neutered carrier, government and business-friendly way? In other words I’m curious if you agree firstly about what outweighs what and also if these current problems will somehow soon become less problematic or relevant and confound, grossly deprioritize or otherwise protractedly delay the process of getting Skype onto WP by default, or even as an app on the market like Tango?

And secondly if given the other plans they have for Skype and the low popularity of WP they won’t throw any resources at it, even if it would likely contribute to WP becoming a viable operation, a contender and not a fringe mobile platform? How would that not be a distraction worth forgetting about indefinitely? Remember Photosynth?

For starters, Skype already has several hundred million registered accounts, tens of millions of which are online at a given instant. That’s a big number. Now when a company like Microsoft absorbs it with the intention of incorporating the brand and its users into their popular PC operating system and their cloud operations too, that number will get really big, a threat to take seriously even on a nascent platform. Bundle it into your phone platform and now you’ve got something that may be undesirable for carriers and while Apple may be able to get away with pissing off the carriers here and there, Microsoft may not be.

Secondly, Skype tends not to jive well with institutions. Its use is banned left and right and many IT man hours have been devoted to defeating Skype’s firewall acrobatics in order to insulate the company from vectors of attack Skype presents. It’s not easy for institutions to audit its use, and that’s a big deal for many businesses, those who need to remain aligned with Sarbanes Oxley and private companies that employ dozens or hundreds, not just thousands, of users. Skype, from the makers of Kazaa by the way, does not have a pristine security rap sheet, they still pop up popups (even on Macs), and it may consume IT resources more than it helps the company. The advantages it offers a business versus a voice and video over IP systems a company could get from the likes of Cisco are not compelling.

Not to mention governments, like the ones that managed to leverage RIM to effectively hand over the keys to privately-owned BES servers. China for instance. Big country — not a fan of Skype, both the government and the carriers. Microsoft’s been working hard to tap China. Would a Windows Phone app be worth risking losing any kind of footing with things like Bing? Did you know that being able to resist a CEO persuading you to break protocol and give him Skype is a marketable skill in the IT job market? 

Have things changed with the mechanics of how Skype works? Last I heard it uses some sort of P2P method of subverting firewalls which eats up user bandwidth whether they’re chatting or idle. Man in the middle attacks with their supernode model is a common concern. There is a large legal gray area in the US and elsewhere about the legality (and government desirability) about Skype not making warranted wiretapping easy. Exposing your contacts on Android, remember that? Skype may access your system address book by default even without any such preference enabled. Skype is known to, for no explicable reason, access /etc/passwd on Linux. Depending on who’s asking, Skype gives different answers regarding privacy. Skype’s advertisements are delivered unencrypted exposing the client to cross-site scripting attacks and those ads being hijacked with malicious packets. Skype feels the need to access BIOS data. Why? Closed source, no peer review. Et cetra.

Even if Skype’s protocols and how it fundamentally works or how Microsoft intends to tinker with it for Lync and Office 365 and Windows and Facebook and Windows Phone has changed, that’s its history, that’s it’s reputation to professionals and it is for all these reasons I don’t see a Skype for WP that’s no more crippled than the Android version showing up flashed onto WPs right out of the box anytime soon regardless of whether or not Microsoft cares about the enterprise market (as well as staying and making friends with governments and carriers) for WP or just consumers. Yet many of you do see this happening fast — what am I missing? Thanks fellas.

Doug Simmons