Since Skype’s launch in 2003 by founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis (also the minds behind Kazaa), it has gained a huge user base of 663 million registered users (as of September 2011).  Most people were drawn to this communication software because the software is free and doesn’t charge you to call the other users on Skype.  They also offer calls to landlines or mobile phones that do charge, but for a modest fee.  Skype’s additional features like file transfer, videoconferencing, and text chat also make it a very popular choice for users.  Ebay was the first to recognize Skype’s potential, and purchased them for $2.6 billion in upfront cash and Ebay stock in 2005.  Just last year, Microsoft acquired Skype for $8.5 billion.

Microsoft has promised to fully incorporate Skype into Windows and Office to make it a part of the Windows experience.  This is incredibly exciting for Windows users as they are in need of a higher end VoIP softphone system.  Although Windows Live Messenger has been around for quite some time and has a following still, it doesn’t provide the features or following of Skype.  Skype’s integration with office will also work with Lync, and allow you to use Skype to communicate with Lync contacts.

Skype integration into Windows will give a large boost to universal communications use for businesses that are both using and not using UC software.  Those businesses that have already adopted UC will have another way of communicating in Windows on top of Lync, Outlook, and Messenger.  Those who haven’t adopted UC yet will get a taste of what UC is like, and the benefits it can offer for their company.  With Skype pre-installed and ready to go, it will be easy to get your staff to start using it and test out what the system is like for your user base.  This will open all kinds of avenues for testing and approaching the idea of UC in the workplace without having to rollout software or spend any money.

Some companies fear Skype and have blocked it from their network for security reasons.  They believe its ability to do file transfers and IM with strangers can cause a security risk for their network and computers.  Most organizations don’t share this feeling and have embraced Skype within their network as a great way to communicate with clients and staff.  The benefits certainly outweigh the risks of Skype in the workplace.

So keep an eye out for Skype in Windows 8 and its integration into Office 2013, and lets us know what features you would like to see in the new Office version in the comments.