It’s been rumoured for a while, but this week Microsoft announced that Windows Live Messenger will close and merge with Skype. Microsoft bought Skype last year, and a couple of months ago released a beta version of Skype for Windows which let you sign in with your Microsoft Account as well as your Skype and Facebook accounts. Last week, that became the official Skype version 6, with new clients for Mac and Windows.
If you use Skype at present, you can merge your accounts by signing out from within the client, and then signing in with your Microsoft Account; from there, you’ll be able to merge your existing Skype account. You will then use your Microsoft Account to sign-in to Skype in future, although your existing Skype username and password will work in the meantime.
I’m personally not surprised that Microsoft is killing off Windows Live Messenger. There are several reasons:
- Having two products from the same company which do basically the same thing is confusing, and not a great use of resources. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Windows Live Messenger and Skype teams will be combined as a result of this.
- Skype has a really strong brand that is widely recognised. Windows Live Messenger isn’t so much, partly because Microsoft has changed its name so many times over the years. At launch it was MSN Messenger, and then Windows Messenger when Windows XP was launched in 2001, and then back to MSN Messenger for version 6, and then most recently Windows Live Messenger.
- Both clients offer voice and video chat, but Skype arguably does it better. In my view, Skype became popular because it had no trouble with NAT routers and port forwarding; other voice chat clients needed manual configuring on routers or were awkward to use. Skype just worked.
- Whilst Windows Live Messenger was one of the most popular clients in the past, it’s not any more. Far more people use Facebook Messenger, and Google Talk is melded into Gmail and Google+, and, I think, included on almost all Android smartphones. Windows Live Messenger only ships by default on Windows Phone devices, which only command a small proportion of smartphones.
- Skype has fully-featured apps on many platforms – Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as mobile. The mobile apps for Messenger are limited to text only, and the use of third-party apps is required on Linux.
- Although I haven’t used the official Windows Live Messenger client on Windows for years, I remember it being a bloated mess with games and allsorts. Now, social gaming is Facebook’s domain (which Microsoft owns a 10% share) so there’s arguably no need for it.
Clearly Skype is the much stronger product, and Microsoft is therefore merging its weaker offering into it, which to me makes sense. Perhaps in future we’ll see Skype further integrated to Microsoft’s product line, with plugins for Outlook, and integration with Outlook.com and Xbox.