One way to decimate adversaries is to open-source your entire competitive advantage. That only works when you’re the market leader.
This month’s release of WebRTC, a set of libraries and APIs for audio and video conferencing, is a late attempt to commoditize the audio-video conferencing market by Google. Nobody cares. For someone to notice a play in this field, Microsoft would have to open-source Skype. That would be an amazing move.
I’ve advocated in various occasions that open-sourcing your core intellectual property is a good idea. In this case, Skype is the de-facto standard. Microsoft is already feeling extreme pressure from its biggest competitors: Apple and Google. But it has a lot more customers now and is going to be slow and scared. These other players will be daring. There’s a strong chance that Skype will become irrelevant in five years as Apple and Google are much stronger mobile players and that would be another big blow in Redmond’s already suffering reputation of a dinosaur.
Dear Microsoft. I use Skype to talk to my family on the other side of the planet. The battle is no longer in the software, it in people’s hearts and minds. You have an opportunity to replace the word “telephone” with the word “skype” and make a lot of money indirectly. If you open-source your core IP around Skype right now and the world embraces it, you might do just that. What is a billion Chinese using a Skype phone built on open source worth to the Microsoft brand? Do you want to take some real risks as a truly innovative company and give away technology that will make the world a better place?
This is it.