Friday, July 25, 2014

Microsoft's Skype Phone

I am currently an 'Android' person, previously I had an Iphone - and had an Android device before that. For me switching between the two proprietary operating systems has been easy.  But as we move forward, it will become more difficult to switch. This is (should be) what companies do, if they are smart - try and lock you in. So while in the past the ecosystem might consist of a tablet, a smartphone and an app store, going forward it will include Telematics, wearables, your thermostat, stove and fridge...anything and everything that can communicate. Third parties will also try and 'own' this space as well, such as what Quirky is doing with it's recent spin off of Wink.  Ultimately though in my opinion the only decision that will be a must will be IOS or Android. But this does not mean that companies like Microsoft can't give it their best shot at being there as well.

Microsoft can play catch up in other ways.  Microsoft needs to think of their Skype property more as a central focus for now, and not their thus far failed mobile OS. A Skype phone would make things very interesting in jump starting Microsoft's mobile efforts in my opinion.  Skype has almost 400 million users already, so the audience is already there.  Microsoft should make a second device (after launching the Skype phone) that is not dissimilar to their already existing tablet, the Surface.  This product should also have Skype as it's central, focal point.  This is the video phone that will replace all the old bell telephones we grew up with in every room in our house. Unlike earlier attempts at video phones 10 and 20 years ago, this time it's different.  The bandwidth is plentiful, the video software works, and to be frank, i'm shocked that this isn't main stream as we speak.  Microsoft can take this initiative even further, with other existing technology they have (they just don't know it).  I have been reading about some Skype software initiatives that they are going to be launching next year.  This is their translation play.  They tout it with spots like "...imagine Skyping with someone on the other side of the world, who speaks a different language, and Skype translates that in real time...". While that sounds really cool, if you are speaking to someone on the other side of the world, and neither speaks the same language, you are likely transacting business.  Are you really going to risk a translation app on a business call??  The real value, and beauty of what Microsoft's software can do is not the translation, it is the real time speech to text.  There are 700 million people around the world who are 'hearing impaired'.  Imagine if they suddenly had a method of communicating like anyone else.

So between Skype's existing 400 million users, and another 700 million that are hearing impaired, you have a potential market of over 1 billion for a Microsoft phone.  That's how you get back in the game, Microsoft. Longer term, if you read my earlier blog post you know I believe that the software and apps will ultimately all be up in the cloud, your phone will be 90% about sensors and hardware. All Microsoft needs to do right now is get in the game.

(The purpose of the above blog post is not so much about Microsoft, you should think about it in terms of how YOU and YOUR startup can enter a market where players already dominate...there's ALWAYS a way, so don't give up!!)

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