Once again, Microsoft played its little “breaking up and starting over” game with the announcement in last week of replacing Windows Live Messenger service – which replaced its predecessor MSN Messenger in 2006 – by Skype globally from 2013 on, with only one exception.

Yes, China would be that exception. Microsoft said that the Middle Kingdom is not included in the scheme of integrating Skype and Live Messenger. Over here, people could still use MSN to communicate though it didn’t say how sustainable that would be.

Microsoft disclosed that MSN’s active users are less than 100 million, far lagged behind skype’s 280 million. Could be one of the reasons to overkill the business.

MSN/Live Messenger once made it to the China’s second largest IM network, only next to Tencent’s QQ. Yet, MSN’s China business, just like how it is in everywhere, was bleeding money.

Shrinking Business

Losing customers is the single largest problem of Live Messenger. And that happened over very short duration of time, signaling the rapid declining trend.

Just in last year, a report from OPSWAT revealed that Live Messenger shared 40.67% of IM market, followed by Skype’s 27.39%. But now, Skype has drastically surpassed MSN by 180 million active users. It’s easy to see that billions of users abandoned the Messenger, looks impossible yet couldn’t be more true.

Users of Live Messenger complained about its junior functions, citing missing of many features that was long offered by its Chinese competitor QQ. And Microsoft seems to be absent-minded when it comes to revamp rather than bug fixing in making new version of Live Messenger.

Too big to keep up with the changing Internet

Rigid body is the Achilles heel to Microsoft. MSN China business didn’t have a final say in many decision and had to deal with a long reporting process, from MSN China to MSN Asia Pacific, MSN Overseas, MSN division and finally Microsoft. The process is unaffordable if you want to keep up with the China Internet heartbeat.

Though with Skype under belt, Microsoft still has a long way to go in IM market, especially in China, to recover lost ground. Skype is all about audio chatting, a feature now offered by tons of smartphone apps in the brave new mobile world. And if Microsoft still acting slow on changes as before, then eventually the software giant has to buy something else to replace Skype.

She reads, travels, photographs and writes, with interests in chronicling China tech scene and interpreting how technology disrupts the way people live.

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