Microsoft is phasing out Windows Live Messenger worldwide, except in Mainland China, according to a blog post yesterday morning from Tony Bates, Microsoft’s Skype division President. They will be gradually moving all Windows Live users to Skype and merging accounts between the two services.
This latest move is the final result of a year’s worth of adjustments after Microsoft’s strategic acquisition of Skype for $8.5 billion last May. Rumors of the phase-out began a few weeks ago when Skype 6 was released and users were given the option to connect their Windows Live and Skype accounts.
Skype now has more than 280 million users, as opposed to Live Messenger’s approximate 100 million. This follows a trend where users worldwide have to come to prefer video and SMS over traditional IM chat services.
In China, however, the picture is a bit fuzzy, with widespread services like QQ still carrying a substantial amount of weight. Additionally, since 2007, Skype has been tied up in a joint venture with TOM, a technology group headquartered in Hong Kong with many locations around Mainland China. Any transfer of users from Windows Live to Skype will have to receive the approval of TOM, which will make it a complex move.
To make matters more difficult, MSN China is operated jointly by Microsoft and the Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd. Therefore, if Skype integrates with MSN, they will need to make a painful structural adjustment.
No date was set for termination of services in China, but the rest of the world will see the phase-out beginning in quarter one 2013.