Microsoft announced this week, via its Sky Blog, that 2013 will see the end of Windows Live Messenger. The service, which went into operation in the middle of 1999, will be merged into Microsoft's acquired Sky brand, including contact migration and, into the first quarter of 2013, cross-platform chat. The move is the next logical evolution in the Messenger brand, which has seen a wide variety of brandings, including MSN Messenger, Windows Messenger and currently Windows Live Messenger.
It is not a major surprise to see Microsoft make this transition. They spent a lot of money to bring Skype into the family but, until now, have not really set about to using it to its potential. While Messenger has seen rapid usage decline, Skype has seen steady growth over the past few years. Availability on all major platforms, including iOS, Android and even webOS, has made the platform the natural one for most users on mobile. Its integration into Facebook also adds appeal to many users.
With the recent release of Windows 8, and its full-featured Skype application, plus Skype's heavy integration into Windows Phone 8, Microsoft has put a lot of faith in the brand to maintain its momentum and make mobile communications easier, cross-platform.
In addition to momentum, Skype also has a revenue model, which makes it a more attractive service to the company. Messenger has been ad-supported for the entire life of the service, whereas Skype offers paid phone services, such as incoming phone numbers and outgoing minutes. Being able to turn the messaging service into a business is an attractive prospect on a front Microsoft has yet to succeed with.
One major player in expending the revenue channel is its integration into the living room. Over the past few years we have seen Skype show off interactive living room setups, with televisions made for Skype communicating with people wandering around the convention floor on phones - all with high-quality video. If Microsoft can take this concept and integrate it into their Xbox console in a proper fashion, it will be more likely to gain traction over the limited success Messenger had in the same space.
While it is a sad day when a product that has been around since before most people knew the Internet existed goes away, it is an exciting day when a company makes a successful pivot on a long-time business. I look forward to seeing where the ideas from both teams can take Skype in the future.