How's this for irony? Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) , owner and operator of the dearly acquired Skype video-calling service, is still the only company to offer a smartphone operating system without a video-calling feature. Here's what it means for the company and for the Microsoft investor.
Hedge that bet
Joe Belfiore, vice president of the Windows Phone program, initially planned for the Skype video-calling application to be built into Windows Phone by the end of 2012. Now, all Rick Osterloh, vice president of the Skype program at Microsoft, will say is that it will be available "soon." Osterloh made the comment at last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Microsoft purchased Skype in the first half of 2011 for $8.5 billion, Microsoft's largest acquisition ever. The move was widely decried by analysts and the press, if for no other reason than the enormous price paid for a company that ended 2010 operating in the red and carrying $686 million in debt.
Right hand, meet left hand
Here's a bit more irony for you. Last year Nokia (NYS: NOK) struck a much-ballyhooed deal with Microsoft to use its Windows Phone operating system in its brand-new line of smartphones, handsets that the Finnish cellphone giant is counting on to revitalize its presence in the smartphone market as well as the company's overall prospects.
Fast-forward to one week ago, and Nokia CEO Stephen Elop touting an innovative, backwards-facing phone camera on its flagship Lumia 900, built in to facilitate -- what else? -- mobile video calling. The handset has yet to officially launch, but for both companies' sake, let's hope Microsoft has gotten its video-calling act together by the time the Lumia 900 is ready to go.
Final Foolish thoughts
In the aforementioned comment by Osterloh, he seems to be hedging his bets regarding the status and timing of Skype's integration into Windows Phone, and he and Belfiore don't seem to be on the same page, but who knows?
Maybe it's just a miscommunication, and Osterloh isn't actually casting doubt on the previously understood time frame for the Skype/Windows Phone fusion. Microsoft is expected to make an announcement regarding the project at Mobile World Congress next month. Ideally, any confusion or mystery will be resolved then.
And ideally, that resolution will be that Microsoft is bang on, or even ahead of, schedule for integrating Skype into Windows Phone.
The smartphone market is doing nothing but growing -- extraordinarily rapidly, at that -- and Microsoft has no time to lose. Windows Phone has to get the company back in the game, and fast; Redmond's future may depend on it. Apple's iPhone operating system comes equipped and ready for video-calling with the company's slick Facetime service. Google's Android is, of course, already there with a video version of Google Talk. Neither of these two tech giants has missed a beat in the smartphone sector, which is why they dominate today.
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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorJohn Grgurichis feeling a bit brutish himself, of late, but owns no shares of any of the companies mentioned in this column. The Motley Fool, however, owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Google and creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft and Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a scintillatingdisclosure policy.
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