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Skype Deal To Cost Enterprise IT

One of the implications of Microsoft buying Skype is that the Internet voice and video communications software will no longer be free to some of the organizations that use the free version today.

Jeff Muscarella, executive VP at the IT spend-management consulting firm NPI, predicts that Skype will become yet another piece of software large enterprises will be compelled to buy as part of a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement license. That's not quite the same as getting it for free, he said in an interview.

Microsoft announced its acquisition of Skype last week for $8.5 billion, prompting many favorable reactions and a few warnings of what could go wrong. Microsoft plans to close the deal by the end of the year, but meanwhile can talk only in general terms about how Skype technology will be integrated and bundled. But Muscarella believes he can make some informed guesses about how it will play out.

"On the consumer side, it will probably remain pretty much free. But at the enterprise level, it will be integrated with the Lync communications server, which means it will no longer be free for the mid- to large-sized business," Muscarella said. "More and more, Microsoft is trying to bundle all these things into the Enterprise Agreement and make it hard for you to unbundle them."

Microsoft promotes this volume licensing model as the best way for an enterprise to get access to a range of products, rather than licensing them individually. "It used to be far more of a Chinese menu" assortment of choices, Muscarella said, but has become more all inclusive over time. Skype is likely to become part of the assortment of desktop software that comes along with Microsoft Office under that model, he said.

That could be good for an organization that wants to adopt Microsoft unified communications technologies anyway, he said, "but if you don't want it, don't need it, it just drives up the cost." For companies who have selected another standard, it will simply be redundant.

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