Today Cisco asked the European Commission to reconsider their recommendation that the purchase of Skype be approved without restriction. Cisco has specifically asked that Skype video conferencing be ‘open’ and prevent a Lync/Skype lock-in. This is fascinating stuff on several levels:
Cisco and Microsoft have many ties and joint working agreements (as the Cisco blog mentions) and for Cisco to officially complain will almost certainly sour those relationships. I thought the working relationship had improved over the past 12 months but I’d assume this will be a set back.
Cisco might like to think they are a competitor to Microsoft and mention them in a great deal of their market information, where I don’t really see the same focus on Cisco as a competitor within the wider Microsoft machine. Sure the MS UC teams talk about Cisco but outside of Lync I just don’t see the same recognition of Cisco. You always hear Microsoft guys whisper about teams being hauled in front of Balmer for losing a deal to Google, I’ve never heard of a similar fate for losing to Cisco. Maybe by poking the big Balmer bear on a key acquisition Cisco might get more competitive focus within Microsoft.
And my thoughts on the substance of the request. I’m in no doubt that Lync/Skype integration would prove a popular selling point for Lync (if MS ever officially announce such a thing) just as the Cisco acquisition of Tandberg proved popular, but neither purchase creates a market distortion:
Microsoft’s plans to integrate Skype exclusively with its Lync Enterprise Communications Platform could lock-in businesses who want to reach Skype’s 700 million account holders to a Microsoft-only platform.
This is patently absurd. If a business wishes to reach the 700 million account holders it downloads Skype for free on any platform they choose and contacts a user directly from Skype without any need for Lync. Far more likely in fact is that a company can contact a Skype user via their corporate Facebook account – how is this possibly locking anyone into a Microsoft platform?
In addition the various regulators rightly highlighted that internet platforms can quickly dissipate, consumers are not locked into Skype. Apple and Google already have similar products, Twitter or Linkedin if they so wished could easily deploy a video platform – Vidyo I’m sure would be more than willing to spin something up for either platform.
Then I think there is the technical legal point that Cisco’s own blog post highlights. Cisco state that the current industry today lacks interoperability. They are dead right but if that is the case how can the EC justify that a merger of two systems, one of which is already closed, create any further industry degradation? If the EC forces MS to open Skype then Microsoft lawyers will rightly demand that all other video systems are forced to be open and interoperate due to legal precedence. Sony, Wii and Xbox, Apple’s Facetime, Google hangouts would all be forced to interoperate. Can I use Google hangouts to join a Cisco Telehealth VC session today ? The courts simply could not enforce such a ruling.
I just don’t understand why Cisco have done this, it makes them look desperate, it probably damages working relationships, I’d be amazed if their appeal stands any weight and they might just have woken up the Microsoft machine. Cisco stepped away from the network space with PostPath and Flip and lost billions. Focus on your own strategy and products rather than making ill conceived requests.