Microsoft + Skype: What did I do to deserve this?

What does Microsoft's $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype mean? That it's time for Cringe to find a new VoIP service

Maybe I'm being made to atone for the various and sundry sins I've committed over the years. Maybe I ticked off the wrong witch doctor. Or maybe I'm just unlucky. But it seems like when I finally find a phone service I like, it gets swallowed up by a company notorious for making things I don't like.

It happened last March when AT&T announced plans to take over T-Mobile, to which I'd switched after suffering for years under the AT&T yoke. Now it's happening with Skype.

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A few years ago I decided to ditch my landline phone and go entirely voice over IP -- first with Time Warner cable, then Vonage. After a year of crappy Vonage service, I decided I might as well go with Skype, which though inconsistent was much cheaper and offered stunningly clear connections with other Skype users, even halfway around the globe.

For the past two years I've been a cell phone and Skype guy exclusively, and it's worked fine. So naturally Microsoft had to come in and spoil it all by snapping up Skype for $8.5 billion.

The question everyone is asking, of course: Why exactly did Microsoft buy Skype?

According to Microsoft's press release, "the acquisition will increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications, bringing benefits to both consumers and enterprise users and generating significant new business and revenue opportunities."

Translation: We have no flippin' clue what to do with Skype, but we sure as hell didn't want Google or Facebook to buy it.

GigaOm's Om Malik, who was the first to spill rumors about the acquisition, says enterprise collaboration is one reason, but a bigger one is "Windows Phone 7 (Mobile OS) and Nokia. The software giant needs a competitive offering to Google Voice and Apple's emerging communication platform, FaceTime."

I dunno. I thought Microsoft's whole Windows Phone 7 ad campaign centered around how boring its handsets were. Isn't that why it's "the phone to save us from our phones"?

PC World's Tony Bradley says Microsoft's purchase gives Skype more credibility in the business world. I suppose that might be true, but only if you believe Microsoft has credibility in the business world.

Meanwhile, the non-adult-supervised lads at eSarcasm claim Microsoft needs Skype so that it can launch its own version of ChatRoulette for Microsoft fanboys. I don't even want to imagine what that would look like.

But it's PC Mag's John Dvorak, who seems to possess an opinion about everything (including his own opinions), who hits the nail squarely on the head about what this acquisition means:

Microsoft's track record of buyout fiascoes, resulting in failure after failure, speaks for itself. When you look back over the past acquisitions, it makes you think that Bill Gates, in particular, was a philanthropist much longer than he's given credit for…. Skype, like almost all of the other Microsoft acquisitions, will languish and die a miserable death. Internal bickering and the simmering "not-invented-here" syndrome at Microsoft will ruin Skype. Luckily, it will be a few years before Skype is unusable.

But my question isn't why did Microsoft buy Skype. My question is, why me? What did I do to deserve this?

Has Microsoft ever bought anything and made it better? Post your ideas below or email me:

This article, "Microsoft + Skype: What did I do to deserve this?," was originally published at Track the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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