When Microsoft purchased Skype on May 10, 2011 for $8.5 billion, it became the company’s largest acquisition ever since its inception in 1975. The ubiquitous VoIP giant was now one with the ubiquitous computing giant, incorporated into a new sector called the Microsoft Skype Division.
So how, exactly, is Microsoft putting its expensive new asset to use? A new report from CVG claims that every communications technology belonging to the company will soon be encircled around Skype — and that includes the online gaming service of Xbox Live voice chat.
Quoting “a person familiar with the matter,” CVG reports that Microsoft is “consolidating all their communications technology” around the Skype platform. With the Xbox 720 expected to be announced (and quite possibly released) within the year, the plan will establish Skype as the console’s default communications service, in lieu of the generic Xbox Live voice chat. The source continued to suggest — and this seems inherent to the features of Skype — that the next generation of Xbox Live will allow for “asynchronous voice and video messages.”
Valid or not, the report comes as little surprise: Microsoft’s Skype/Xbox 720 ambitions were revealed in a May 2012 job-listing, where the company expressed goals to enable real-time online video chat in next-gen multiplayer gameplay. The real intrigue stems from a potential total Skype takeover of Xbox Live’s chat service.
For one it wouldn’t necessarily be a pure chat service anymore. The move would indicate that Microsoft is aiming to revitalize what’s become a rather disregarded feature of Xbox Live (forget asynchronous; Live’s public-chat airwaves have gone aphonic in many games), and with the help of technology from Skype the next generation could see more social/communication innovations reflected in the games themselves. Just look back to the language from Microsoft when the aforementioned Skype programmer opening was posted on its careers page:
“Skype is working on powering real-time voice and video communications on the Xbox. Xbox is a fundamental lynchpin of Skype’s living-room strategy, and we are focused on enabling amazing new in-game and in-console voice and video experiences for the next generation of Xbox. This is a crucial initiative for Xbox, and it is time-critical given the hardware lead times involved.”
Whatever the future may hold for Skype and the Xbox 720, it’s clear that the Living Room is indeed Microsoft’s ultimate console endgame. Skype integration lends further credence to the rumor that Kinect 2.0 — the likely image capturing apparatus Skype would work through — will ship standard with the Xbox 720. And added with speculative technologies like the image projecting IllumiRoom and virtual reality eyewear, a myriad of opportunities exist for future gaming experiences that, just as much as graphics or processing power, put the “next” in next generation.
How would you like to see Skype integrated with the Xbox 720? What about other Microsoft devices such as Surface and Windows-based computers?
Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.