Things haven’t gone as per plan for Skype ever since it was acquired by Microsoft. Last month, I wrote a post on what’s coming next for the ‘Big Daddy of Internet Telephony’. Several experts predicted the Microsoft deal would spell the end of Skype’s autonomy. Back then, the Redmond giant said that Skype would retain its original brand and it would constitute its own division at Microsoft.
In its first major move since the Microsoft deal, Skype yesterday announced that it has agreed to acquire group messaging service GroupMe. The latter is a group messaging service that lets users create groups from their contacts on any smartphone and start conversations involving everyone in the group. GroupMe offer clients for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 and also works over SMS.
GroupMe recently introduced direct messaging to a person in the group, and “questions” that can asked on a group, or broadcast over Twitter and Facebook. The service also allows users to manage groups, send messages, share photos, and ask questions from a website. Post acquisition, the company will remain in New York, team intact, and will continue to work on its standalone application.
Skype declined to comment on whether it plans to integrate GroupMe into its existing products. Several analysts believe the GroupMe acquisition will boost Skype as it can now offer triple-play group messaging – audio, video as well as text. Others such as gigaOM have questioned the rationale of spending so much money on a relatively small company with a relatively small user base when compared to Skype?
So, what will Skype do with GroupMe? There are a number of possibilities – it can leverage GroupMe to build a WP7 platform to strengthen its multi-platform portfolio and please Microsoft. Secondly, it can build a new product to compete with the likes of Apple’s iMessage, Google’s Huddle and Facebook Messenger. For a start, Skype will gain tremendously if it manages to integrate GroupMe’s group messaging into its existing clients.
The Skype press release mentioned
“This acquisition is another step towards our vision to provide a global multi-modal and multi-platform communications experience. It complements our existing leadership in voice and video communications by providing best in class mobile text-based communications and innovative features around group messaging that enable users to connect, share locations and photos and make plans with their closest ties.”
In a related blog post, GroupMe states that it launched the service with 2 main objectives – how do people stay in touch and how can it change the way people across the globe communicate and get together better in real life.
“We solved problem #1, and our efforts alongside Skype will accelerate the execution of problem #2 tenfold. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Though the terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, it is believed that Skype paid more than $50 million to acquire GroupMe in a bid to juice up its group messaging portfolio.