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What does the Skype sale mean for Apple customers?

By now everyone knows that Skype has been sold to Microsoft for a huge 8.5 billion dollars. The question on all our minds is what will the sale mean to Mac and iOS users?

There aren't any ready answers. Microsoft often treats the Mac as a least-favored nation. Most versions of Office have lagged behind the Windows counterparts, including some dramatic functional lapses like when Microsoft killed the ability to use Visual Basic macros in Office 2008, and then later restored that functionality in Office 2011.

Microsoft bought Bungie, the creator of Halo, in 2000, just as it was going to release the game for the Mac. In 2007 Bungie and Microsoft split, but Microsoft retains a minority stake in the company. On the iOS side, things look a little brighter. Microsoft, so far behind with its own phone OS, has released some noteworthy apps for iOS, including Bing, Microsoft OneNote and Photosynth.

On the desktop and laptop side, Skype for Mac has always been a bit behind the feature curve when compared to the Windows version, and recently it suffered some security problems (not to mention widespread complaining about the new UI introduced in version 5). I don't expect Skype on the Mac to be a high priority for Ballmer and friends.

Microsoft will put a lot of attention into integrating Skype into the Xbox, Windows 7 and the new Windows Phone 7 OS (which doesn't run Skype at all right now). Meanwhile, Apple should step up the game for FaceTime, which was announced with great fanfare but seems a bit moribund. It's an embarrassment that FaceTime can't make calls over 3G, while Tango, Skype and some others do it quite well.

Lex Friedman at Macworld weighs in with more thoughts on the implications for Mac users as Skype joins the MS fold. What's your take? Will all the financial muscle at Microsoft improve Skype on Mac OS X and iOS? Or will Skype wilt from neglect?

Update: Right after this post went live, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer stated that the company would not be giving up on Mac support for Skype. It's true, Microsoft has shown a long history of Office for Mac support, and so whatever your feelings on Ballmer and his company, it seems like Skype for Mac will be just fine for the foreseeable future.

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