Today Microsoft announced that Skype will come installed in Windows 8.1, likely helping the communications service that was purchased for $8.5 billion grow more quickly. The move immediately causes something of a gut reaction that this will be challenged in court, probably in Europe.
Microsoft has a history of pissing off regulators by over-bundling its own services that compete with third parties into its operating system. However, I strongly suspect that Skype will lean only on publicly available Windows APIs, providing something of a fire shield.
You might ask yourself why Microsoft would be in danger of governmental oversight and crackdown over Skype, and not, say, over the Bing Weather app. Why can one be bundled into Windows 8 safely, and perhaps not the other? Scale, essentially. Skype is a huge service, and one with obvious competition from both large and small companies alike. The field that it competes in is large, and lucrative. Therefore, Microsoft tipping the scales of its platform — which can still, in some ways, be judged a monopoly — in favor of its home-built communications tool will irk many.
Microsoft non sum qualis eram, but that doesn’t stop the potential to fractious legal scrapping.
All that aside, the move is great for Skype, and helps to better explain perhaps why Microsoft was willing to pay so many billions for the company. By baking Skype into Windows 8.1, Microsoft will add it to the plate of nine-figure users, perhaps boosting Skype’s usage by double-digit percentage points. Also, Skype is a better product than some of the native social applications built into Windows 8. If Skype can supplant them at least in usage, it will be a net boon for Windows.
Windows 8.1 isn’t completely locked yet, but it is close. Yesterday Microsoft confirmed that Windows 8.1 will be digitally available on October 17, and will land in stores on the 18th.