It’s official: Microsoft bought Skype for $8.5bn early in the morning, as reported by AllThingsD yesterday. Google and Facebook were already developing deals with the VoIP communications company, but were stopped neat by MS. Here are a few interesting lines about MS’s reasons to buy the firm.
- Skype gives Microsoft a boost in the enterprise collaboration market, thanks to Skype’s voice, video and sharing capabilities, especially when competing with Cisco and Google.
- It gives Microsoft a working relationship with carriers, many of them looking to partner with Skype as they start to transition to LTE-based networks.
- It would give them a must-have application/service that can help with the adoption of the future versions of Windows Mobile operating system.
- However, the biggest reason for Microsoft to buy Skype is Windows Phone 7 (Mobile OS) and Nokia. The software giant needs a competitive offering to Google Voice and Apple’s emerging communication platform, Facetime.
Skype was already a problem for the free software community – the FSF has an high-priority project about finding free replacements – but it has grown into a bigger ache as Microsoft acquires it.
Skype is used by 124 million people per month, and other non-free software gather most other users, such as Windows Live Messenger (330 million users/month).
VoIP communications free softwares are slowly emerging – and they’ve got their way to make -, but have a growing user database. Two of them are Ekiga and QuteCom. They’re quoted by the FSF as replacements to Skype, but we don’t know much about them. So let’s introduce them!
Ekiga is a “SoftPhone, video conferencing and instant messaging application, supporting HD sound quality and video up to DVD size and quality”. A few features:
- Ease of use with a modern Graphical User Interface.
- Audio and Video free calls through the internet.
- Free Instant Messaging through the internet with Presence support.
- Audio (and video) calls to landlines and cell phones with support to the cheapest service providers.
- High Definition Sound (wideband) and Video Quality up to DVD quality (high framerate, state of the art quality codec and frame size).
- Free of choice of the service provider.
- SMS to cell phones if the service provider supports it (like the default provider).
- Standard Telephony features support like Call Hold, Call Transfer, Call Forwarding, DTMF.
- Remote and Local Address Book support: Remote Address Book support with authentification using the standard LDAP technology, Local Address support in Gnome (Evolution).
- Multi platform: Windows and GNU/Linux
- Wide interoperability: Ekiga use the main deployed stantards for telephony protocols (SIP and H.323) and has been tested with a wide range of softphones, hardphones, PBX and service providers.
You can go here for a full list: it’s quite long. I’ve been using Ekiga for 4-5 months now, and I consider it as the most advanced Skype free alternative. It has probably the biggest community of all free softphones apps (among Twinkle, Coccinella and QuteCom).
Ekiga’s interface is really simple, and it makes it easy to use.