A Reuters article suggests that both Facebook and Google are in the running for some sort of joint venture with consumer voice-over IP (VoIP) giant Skype. While the promise of reaching Facebook's millions of users must be compelling to Skype, a tie-up with Google could bear real fruit for both organizations, especially in the small business world.
While details of what form such an alliance may take are slim, one likely and enticing candidate is the creation of an online collaboration suite that would rival Microsoft's Lync offering in Office 365 in features, and clearly outclass it in user base.
Google already has a strong online business suite with Google Docs for Business and Gmail, but as it finds itself up against Microsoft's hosted collaboration and communications tools, its own offerings, Google Talk and Google Voice, fall short of the kind of tools available with Lync.
The connection is not without its challenges. Google's bread and butter is in offering software and services that can be consumed through its Web browser, while Skype's service is primarily consumed via dedicated applications on the desktop or mobile devices. But this very disconnect may be the biggest advantage to Google. While there's a lot that can be done within the confines of the browser, when it comes to features like persistent status and presence information and video and audio calling, a standalone app may still be the way to go, even on the desktop. If the two can find a way to integrate presence and click-to-call into the Google Docs suite while keeping the Skype desktop application user experience, they would have a very powerful combination.
Both have huge user bases, and both cross the spectrum from home user to prosumer to SMB and even the enterprises much better than does Facebook, which the article suggests may be looking to purchase Skype.
Facebook has a huge worldwide user base of 500 million-plus, and a partnership there could increase the amount of calls flowing across the Skype network. If Skype ultimately decides that its future does not involve going public as a separate entity, becoming the captive audio and video calling service for Facebook's massive user base may make a lot of sense. And of course, the two are already quite familiar with each other.
But if Skype decides to stick to its initial public offering guns, a money-making tie in with Google would lift its prospects in the business arena while also helping Google in its cloud business suite battle with its rival in Redmond.
The biggest reason for Skype to go with Google may be for its own business reasons. While both Skype and Facebook have massive user communities, neither has put together a business plan the way Google has. Skype has put off its initial public offering in the bid to go public, but as the Reuters article points out, the clock is ticking on Skype strengthening its pitch to Wall Street.