Microsoft snaps up Skype, Google brings music and YouTube goes to the movies

What a big day it’s been in tech (and it’s only just starting in some parts of the world)! I was pretty surprised when I turned on my computer to find that three of the biggest tech companies (well technically two) had made rather large announcements. Of course I had forgotten Google’s I/O event began today which accounts for two, but there was one I was not expecting!

Microsoft acquires Skype

This comes from Microsoft who have today purchased communication company Skype for $8.5 bn, making it the biggest acquisition the company has ever made. And maybe it’s a telling sign of the direction Microsoft is slowly trying to adapt to.

For years the tech giant has been at the head of desktop computing world – the most profitable consumer electronics market. But in recent years that has changed as Tablets, smartphones and more entertaining technology has taken a large share of the PC market. Microsoft and Windows haven’t really adapted and thus has seen slightly disappointing revenues as a result.

The purchase of Skype, I think, shows part of their new effort to move away from their Office based traditions and appeal to the mass-market again. After all, Skype has more than made a name for itself with everyone and their Gran using the communication tool. Furthermore, Skype finds itself on every mobile and tablet device going, it’s had a massive penetration level and just recently has been launching it’s own Wi-Fi network – how could Microsoft resist?

The question is what happens next for us, the consumer. Skype calls are mostly free, or low rate – will they remain that way. For the whole, I believe they will, Skype had already become quite established in it’s current form – Microsoft are hardly likely to kill the thing that made the service attractive… although they have before.

With this kind of communication service growing very popular with the current state of the internet, this is likely to be seen as a wise decision by Microsoft in the years to come.

Google launch Music Beta

When Amazon launched the controversial (with the record labels anyway) Cloud Player last month, Apple and Google were left looking a little red faced. They’d talked about such a service for a while, but neither had fully developed it yet.

Not to be left behind, Google have today launched their Music streaming service – Google Music (beta). It works in much the same way as Cloud Player, you upload your tracks (up to 20,000) and can then play them on any Windows or Mac computer and Android mobile phones.

The service will be available very soon (users can sign up for an invite here). However, as with Amazon’s launch, you’ll only be able to use this service in the US for the time being (damn being in the UK). The service also notes that you can currently use it for free ‘for a limited time’, indicating a future charge, much like Spotify works. It will be interesting to see how well Google music does compared to Cloud Player and Apple’s future iTunes update.

YouTube launches movie rental service

And speaking of iTunes, Google have gone on the hunt after their company YouTube announced they were launching movie rentals.

Much like the iTunes store, YouTube will allow you to stream a full movie in High Definition on their website for a small charge. The movies span a large archive of classic, right up to modern day releases. The prices vary on the site, with many of the movies being absolutely free (as they carry over from the previous service YouTube launched in 2009). It will be interesting to see how much of an impact the new feature length films will make on current services like iTunes and Netflix.

Three big announcements (and many more coming avery minute at Google’s I/O) that should once again lead to a more entertaining and easier-to-access world of the internet. Now we wait and see how the third protagonist reacts, the unusually quiet Apple!

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