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Cisco wakes up to Microsoft Skype threat

Not opposing, not supporting, but appealing
Thu Feb 16 2012, 09:14

COMMUNICATIONS HARDWARE FIRM Cisco has suddenly expressed some concerns about Microsoft's buyout of Skype.

The purchase is not new, and Cisco has dragged its knuckles on it. Now, months after it was announced, the firm has asked regulators to take a closer look at it.

"In the past decade video communications has moved out of the realm of science fiction to become commonplace in our homes, at work, and on mobile devices," says a blog post from Cisco's Martin de Beer.

"Yet we remain some distance from the goal of video calls being as easy and ubiquitous as phone calls are today - across any network and between all devices. Imagine how difficult it would be if you were limited to calling people who only use the same carrier or if your phone could only call certain brands and not others. Cisco wants to avoid this future for video communications."

Because of these concerns, Cisco as well as European VoIP firm Messagenet have appealed against the European Commission approval of Microsoft's acquisition of Skype.

"We did not take this action lightly. We respect the European Commission, and value Microsoft as a customer, supplier, partner, and competitor," added de Beer.

"Cisco does not oppose the merger, but believes the European Commission should have placed conditions that would ensure greater standards-based interoperability, to avoid any one company from being able to seek to control the future of video communications."

This is no nuisance protest. Cisco said that its only goal is to keep video calling as open as email, and expressed concerns that Microsoft could tie Skype to its Lync enterprise messaging output.

Microsoft's plans to integrate Skype exclusively with its Lync Enterprise Communications Platform "could lock-in businesses who want to reach Skype's 700 million account holders to a Microsoft-only platform," said de Beer.

"When vendors implement their own protocols and selectively interoperate, they push the burden of interoperability to the customer. We respectfully request that the General Court act on our concerns and for the European Commission to ensure the proper protections are put in place to encourage innovation and a competitive marketplace."

Microsoft is confident about the deal and in a statement it said that it did not expect to see the EC change its mind.

"The European Commission conducted a thorough investigation of the acquisition, in which Cisco actively participated, and approved the deal in a 36-page decision without any conditions," it said.

"We're confident the Commission's decision will stand up on appeal." µ



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