Last week, Microsoft introduced a preview edition of Skype for Outlook.com in the UK. The product is scheduled to be rolled out in the United States and Germany in the coming weeks.
The new product will feature the ability to engage in video and audio calling powered by Skype embedded in every Outlook.com (a free email service) inbox. Once set up, a user reading an email on Outlook.com can simply move their cursor over the picture of the person who sent an email, or of anyone in their contacts, and initiate a Skype call or chat session. Once a user’s Skype and Microsoft accounts are merged, their Skype contacts will merge into Outlook.com. Set-up requires the download of a plug-in for users’ Internet browser, although only the most recent versions of Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox are supported. Details on additional browser support are forthcoming.
When Microsoft purchased Skype in 2011, critics questioned how the two companies with such different services could merge their products in a way that made sense to consumers. Two years later, Skype for Outlook.com represents the first major step towards integrating the two services.
Microsoft recently launched a new version of Outlook.com, and claims it has not only been a wild success (with 60 million users), but that it is attracting numerous Gmail users. The new Outlook.com replaced Hotmail, which had for several years been badly languishing behind Gmail. Bing has been slowly increasing its market share, and the success of Outlook.com may have given Microsoft some momentum. The launch of Skype for Outlook.com may continue that momentum and enable Microsoft to push back on Google’s market share.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s recent letter to shareholders said, “It’s important to recognize a fundamental shift underway in our business and the areas of technology that we believe will drive the greatest opportunity in the future.” The letter was released October 9 in Microsoft’s 2012 annual report.
Along with reporting that fiscal year 2012 revenue grew to $73.7 billion, he revealed that due to strong cost discipline, cash flow resulted in $31.6 billion, up 17% from the previous year. He reported that Microsoft returned $10.7 billion to shareholders in stock buybacks and dividends.
The “shift in business” is the primary focus of his letter, and he describes how Microsoft will attempt to handle the change as the future unfolds. Ballmer observes that people use Microsoft software, devices and services “at work, and in their personal lives.” He said, “This is a significant shift, both in what we do and how we see ourselves—as a devices and services company.” Ballmer goes on to say that accomplishments and developments this year along with the company “roadmap in front of us brings this to life.” Read more
A June 18 Microsoft press release and Hollywood event provided a fitting answer to speculation concerning what it was that Microsoft had been planning when the event was announced late last week. The event provided an introduction to the Surface, a unique tablet computer that, according to the release, “features significant advances in industrial design and attention to detail.”
The new tablet runs a variation of the new Windows 8 operating system (OS). Both the tablet and the OS are slated to be released beginning this fall. Microsoft indicates that the device was “conceived, designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft employees.” The tablet features a built in “kick stand” allowing the unit to stand up for conventional tasks or for video streaming. The cover doubles as a keyboard for the unit that measures 9.3 mm in thickness, weighs 1.5 pounds and comes in a magnesium case. The display is 10.6 inches and is built with Corning Gorilla Glass 2. Read more
In late October, Microsoft released a viral video showcasing its future of technology and productivity.
To which John Pavlus over at FastCodeDesign commented that the video, although sleek and sophisticated, is not realistic for a future that is supposed to exist merely 10 years from now. Perhaps more importantly, these futuristic interfaces are supposed to solve real problems and make life easier — two points that Microsoft misses entirely in its video.
As Pavlus says, “Microsoft’s film is probably going viral as we speak, but imagine how much more reach it would have if it dared to depict a guy stuck in a meeting that sucked, or using his smartphone in an airport that was full of noisy assholes and long lines, or searching his touchscreen-enabled smart refrigerator for a quick meal because his kids are bouncing off the walls and he’s bone-tired from a long day at work?”
Food for thought for independent telcos and your technology-related marketing campaigns.
As had been rumored for some time, Microsoft announced yesterday that it will expand the video content available over its Xbox Live system to pay-TV subscribers in most major markets. Microsoft has deals in place with nearly 40 entertainment providers including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon FiOS, as well as Bravo, ESPN, HBO GO and Syfy. This is in addition to the inherent gaming services and previously announced content from Hulu Plus, Netflix and Google’s YouTube which are available on the Xbox.
Pay-TV subscribers will need to authenticate in order to access the content through the Xbox system. In general, users also will need to subscribe to video and broadband services from their traditional service provider (in other words, cord cutting is not an option), and subscribe to a $60 per year Xbox Live Gold membership. (Microsoft confirmed today that only a small amount of content will be available on the Xbox without authentication and Xbox Gold status.) Read more
And last but not least, our video of the week (VOTW). Microsoft introduced Windows 8 last week.