x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Microsoft's big ambitions for its future with Skype

Samer Ramez Abu-Ltaif, the regional general manager of Microsoft Gulf, discusses the company's business strategy and the future of Skype within the UAE.

Samer Ramez Abu-Ltaif, the regional general manager of Microsoft Gulf, discusses the company's business strategy and the future of Skype in the UAE.

US$8.5 billion. That's how much Microsoft recently put down for Skype, though it's not allowed to be used in the UAE. What are you doing personally to see that Skype might be opened up here?

As you know we're still in process of the acquisition. But I believe the opportunities are going to be huge with that because Microsoft will be able to enrich the experience of Skype by bringing more of the features, functions and innovations that we have in our stack of software.

What about specifically addressing the point of using Skype here?

I think we're waiting to get more guidance as to how we're going to partner primarily with our telecommunications partners here because they are very, very important and fundamental. I don't want to come across as Microsoft competing with our telecommunication companies. They are our partners. We definitely want to make sure we have win-win scenarios.

So whether it can be used will remain to be seen?

Yeah, I think there are a lot of customers using Skype today. But I think what they will see eventually, in terms of innovation and so on, is going to emerge as we progress with the acquisition.

Who is Microsoft's biggest competitor in the Gulf?

It depends on which sector. In enterprise we have a set of competitors. Oracle is one. VMware, who competes also with us. You take, for example, the consumer space: I think Apple has a niche market where people with a certain level of affordability might go. But … we have a number of very, very strong and appealing products. [The computer operating system] Windows 7 has been an amazing success for us.

But why hasn't the software for mobiles - Windows Phone 7 - taken off as much as Apple's operating system or even RIM's in this region?

We are building momentum. I think that the timing it took us to come up with Windows Phone 7 was a very, very good testimonial of Microsoft's capability to come to the market with a really innovative product. I would say Nokia's vote of confidence and selecting Windows Phone 7 as their platform for smartphones is another indication that we are really on the right track. I think the alliance we have with Nokia is going to be a huge boost.

In one way, though, is it a sign that Microsoft wasn't strong enough on its own to be a big player in the mobile space?

In fact, our approach is partner-led because we don't manufacture the devices themselves. We work with a number of manufacturers. Nokia, considering their focus and size, is definitely a very visible alliance. It's going to be a turning point in terms of market share, and the positioning of Windows Phone 7.