How Microsoft could win the mobile messenger war

skype

Every month we either hear about the launch of a new mobile messenger app, the funding of an app, or the acquisition of one. Yet, we never hear of any innovation coming from the Skype camp. If you conduct an image search for Skype you will find a few images of mobile devices but over 90% of the images are of Skype being used on PCs. This is wrong. Skype is one of the most brilliant of all mobile messenger apps. Perhaps I should say ‘could’ be…

Following Skype’s acquisition of Qik (disclaimer: the Founding CEO, CTO, Head of Ops, Engineer 1, Engineer 2 and the 2 first angel investors are all individual investors in MetaCert), I expected to see some amazing updates including video calling and chat integration. I don’t think about Skype when I want to use chat/IM on mobile. Why?!

Video is going to play a very big part in the future. Microsoft has the talent and technology to ensure Skype steams ahead in the mobile messenger space. But does it have the innovation drive and the ability to be agile?

My suggestion to Microsoft

Internal processes and office politics are likely to stand in the way of Skype (AKA Microsoft) building a world dominating mobile messenger app internally. So my suggestion is this:

Skype should open its API and hold a three month hackathon to see who can build the most compelling mobile apps – without limitations. Create a three stage elimination process where the early prototypes are knocked out. They could rent a hotel to house the remaining teams who would spend their last week putting the final touches to their apps. It would be the world’s biggest hackathon.

The best apps for each major market would each receive $1M in prize money (cash). Most products will never make it big in every market as each market has very different needs – so by allowing developers to focus on the market they know best you attract developers from all over the world and you end up with products that are fit for each market. The best overall app wins $5M in cash.

The entire project wouldn’t cost more than $20M, a tiny fraction of their R&D budget. And it’s almost certain to not only achieve true innovation around some of their core technology, it would also make them more attractive to the developer community longterm.


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