Saturday, August 29, 2009

Counter-Point -- Andy Abramson Phones In on the Meaning of Google's Acquisition of On2 to Skype

A few days back, I wrote a post about Google's recent play to buy video codec provider On2 and the potential threat that poses to Skype. That post received lots of visibility because it was picked up by some financial message boards -- particularly by some On2 investors none-too-happy about the pending acquisition (there has been a lot of press about this shareholder discontent -- and the filing of actual litigation to block the deal).

To be clear, my fundamental point is that Google's move -- which still has a long way to go before the deal closes -- should be making a lot of folks very nervous, including Skype. My long-time compadre and VoIP/technology expert, Andy Abramson, chimes in on the more provocative scenario I paint by the On2 acquisition -- i.e., that Google theoretically could withhold from Skype (a direct competitor in the online communications world) critical voice communications technology. And, he brushes that possibility aside, concluding that Google has no interest getting into the patent licensing game.

I actually agree with Andy -- and my post was not meant to imply that I believed this more draconian scenario was the most likely. I too feel that Google is unlikely to play that direct and obvious predatory card (for anti-competitive reasons and Andy's reasons, among others). But that does not mean that Skype should not be "nervous" about that more extreme scenario or other less-than-palatable scenarios because no one really knows what Google's intentions are.

At a minimum, Google's actions, in this online communications context, demonstrate that it is committed to focusing additional significant resources on video chat via Google Talk and Gmail Chat. And, this alone should be a "wake up call" to Skype.