Microsoft will phase out Windows Live Messenger, its consumer instant messaging platform, over the next several months as its users are moved to Skype, the company announced this week.
Microsoft hopes to smooth the transition to Skype for Live Messenger users by allowing them to log in to Skype with their Microsoft ID so that contacts in one program will automatically transfer to the other.
The move to Skype will be beneficial to Live Messenger users, said Microsoft spokesperson Dani Reese. Bringing together Messenger and Skype contacts within Skype provides a richer and easier way for users to communicate and collaborate with those they care about the most.
“We’ve worked hard to incorporate users’ favorite Messenger features into Skype, beginning with the ability to sign-in to Skype with a Microsoft account and ensure that they can IM with their contacts right away without needing to set up,” Reese told TechNewsWorld.
More Power Under Umbrella
By moving to Skype, Live Messenger users will be able to avail themselves of a new set of robust features, such as the following:
- support for more devices;
- consolidation of functions — video, landline and mobile calling — into a single application;
- sharing of screens;
- video calling from mobile devices and through Facebook; and
- group video calling.
“The end result is you get something that’s more universal than what you had before and with quite more capability,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.
IM On Decline
“It’s a logical consolidation of two redundant services that Microsoft has under its brand right now after acquiring Skype,” Rob Sanfilippo, analyst at Directions On Microsoft, told TechNewsWorld.
“There’s a lot of similar functionality offered between those two services right now, and Skype is definitely the service Microsoft will be supporting going forward so it makes sense to blend Messenger into Skype,” he added.
The popularity of Instant Messaging as a technology in the consumer space has been waning, said Enderle. “For the most part, Instant Messaging is a technology that everybody let languish. You still have your three platforms, but almost no one talks about it anymore because most of its functionality has moved over to social media.”
Instant Messaging is more popular in other parts of the world than it is in United States. “Texting has replaced IM in a lot of cases. Even just chatting over social networks has become popular, rather than going to a specific Instant Messaging service,” Sanfilippo said.
Instant Messaging Dominance
Worldwide, Microsoft dominates the Instant Messaging market, according to an analysis released in June by Opswat, a maker of software management and security solutions. That analysis shows the combined market share of Live Messenger and Skype to be 83 percent.
“In terms of installed applications, this is a very narrow market,” Opswat Marketing Manager Elisse Lockhart told TechNewsWorld. “Almost 99 percent of the market is made up of three products, and a good share of that goes to Microsoft.”
While Instant Messaging is waning in the consumer sphere, it continues to be popular with the enterprise, according to Gartner Research Director Bill Pray. “In the enterprise market, there are some specific use cases, particularly in unified communications, where Instant Messaging plays a significant role,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Within enterprise Instant Messaging, presence functionality — the ability to know a coworker’s location and availability — is built into the software, he explained. That functionality is being incorporated into the productivity tools across the enterprise.
Just Another New Client
That’s a different scenario than what’s happening in the consumer market, Pray continued. “In the consumer market, there’s a lot of competition with the social messaging environment,” he explained.
“Social messaging has been rapidly adopted on the consumer side, whereas it’s fairly nascent on the enterprise side,” he added. But even enterprise social software makers are integrating instant messaging into their offerings because presence functionality is so important in the enterprise, he noted.
Microsoft’s enterprise product that includes Instant Messaging is Lync. While it’s unlikely that Skype will supplant Lync, Microsoft will probably increase integration between the two programs in the future, Pray said.
The forced move to Skype most likely won’t be disruptive to most users. “Over the years, the Messenger IM client has gone through a lot of evolution of its own and a lot of name changes,” Sanfilippo observed.
“There’s always been a new client that users have been prompted to upgrade to,” he continued, “so this move is really just another new client upgrade to them.”