Microsoft's aggressive grand plan for merging Skype and Messenger takes shape

The Skype team is planning to replace the Messenger instant-messaging client with Skype messaging a lot sooner than many expected.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

After months of leaked bits, Microsoft's Skype division is finally opening the informational tap.


We've already seen and now used the new Windows 8 Skype client. We've heard there's a Windows Phone 8 Skype client coming -- though it's still not in the Windows Phone Store and Skype reps are not sharing more on when it will be.

On November 6, the Skype team provided more information about its recently stated plans to ultimately replace Windows Live Messenger with Skype. The planned cutover date is quite aggressive: It's Q1 2013, according to a new Skype blog post. 

"We will retire Messenger in all countries worldwide in the first quarter of 2013 (with the exception of mainland China where Messenger will continue to be available)," according to the post. By that time, consumers who want to use instant messaging will have no choice but to use Skype for that. (Business instant messaging will still be largely the province of Microsoft's Lync, though Lync-Skype federation is coming at some point.)

In late October, Skype officials said that Skype would most likely will replace Messenger some day, but declined to provide a public timetable. However, in October, Skype began testing new Windows and Mac beta releases that allowed users to sign in using their Windows Live ID (Microsoft Account) so they could send and receive instant messages and see presence information from those using Messenger.

On the back-end, in the months after Microsoft's acquisition of Skype was finalized, the pair have been moving Skype to use the Windows Messenger infrastructure. Storage of pictures, video and other Skype content is now happening on Windows Azure.

Once users migrate from Messenger to Skype, they will be able to use not just Skype's instant messaging, but also its video calling, Skype's landline calling capability, screen sharing, video calling on mobile phones and with Facebook friends and Group Calling, according to today's post.

The Skype team's ultimate goal is to convince consumers to leave Skype running on their machines all day and use chat as the first place they go when they sign in.

I have to say, even though Windows Live Messenger has been buggy and pretty awful on Windows 7, I am fearful about this rapid transition to Skype. I haven't found Skype messaging to be as good as Windows Live Messenger. Hoping to see improvements sooner rather than later since we aren't going to have much of a choice...

Update: Microsoft officials also have blogged about the pending death of Messenger on the "Inside Windows Live" blog. "We will enable Skype to work better with Outlook.com than Messenger ever has too," according to that November 6 post.

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