Device operating systems

Windows Phone's Missing Piece: Skype

1:35 PM -- Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) got a lot of praise at the Consumer Electronics Show last week for its Windows Phone operating system, but there was one glaring omission: Skype Ltd. (See Nokia Illuminates Its Flagship Windows Phone and OS Watch: Gadget Makers Soften Up at CES.)

The voice-over-IP company Microsoft spent $8.5 billion on was nowhere to be found on its new phones. (See Microsoft Completes Skype Acquisition and Microsoft to Buy Skype for $8.5B .)

When the company acquired Skype back in May it promised future Windows Phones would come equipped with Skype's real-time voice and video communications platform, something it reiterated at CES, but its first devices actually included competitor Tango Networks Inc. 's VoIP service instead. Windows Phone is actually the only major OS to lack a Skype app. (See Microsoft Plans a WP7 Skype Soiree.)

My guess is that Microsoft is holding back on its plans for the VoIP service as its first priority is to convince the wireless operators to champion Windows Phone. Although they've loosened up a lot about Skype -- some even embracing it -- Microsoft still runs the risk of alienating them by putting a competing voice and video calling service front and center on smartphones. (See Skype's Latest Telco Friend, VoIP's Not the Devil, Says O2 UK Chief and Why Mobile Operators Like Skype .)

Microsoft is wise to tread carefully, given the prominent role the wireless operators play in the equation, but it shouldn't hold back for much longer. Skype represents a powerful differentiator for the OS. It's not just a voice-calling alternative, but also a tightly integrated video chat app, allowing group calls and instant messaging.

If they build it in, the wireless operators will come around. What they should realize is, more choice and better communications lead to more subscribers toting smartphones with higher data plans. And that's good for the OS and the operators.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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