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Why Microsoft and Skype Creates at Best a "Clo-Pen" Garden for Video Chat

(May 11, 2011)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- (Marketwire) -- 05/11/11 -- TokBox, the leading video platform, today welcomed Microsoft's acquisition of Skype, supporting the validation of the multi-billion dollar video communications market. However, TokBox CEO Ian Small questioned whether the deal will advance the development of a truly open system that is required to enable consumers to embrace video chat.

Comment from TokBox CEO Ian Small:

"Microsoft's $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype buys a lot of credibility for the video chat market, but does it herald a new dawn, or just the growth of another closed system?

Many commentators have claimed video chat requires an open system to be truly successful, and I totally agree. Some have suggested that Microsoft and Skype's union will create that system. I entirely disagree.

At best, Microsoft and Skype creates a 'clo-pen' system. Even though the size of the garden has grown, it is still walled. So, it is a good first step, but at the end of the day it is still only a partial success.

To date video communication has operated within a series of closed environments. Skype users can talk to other Skype users, iPhone 4 owners can use FaceTime to talk to other iPhone 4 users (if they can find them), and so on. The most broadly adopted video communications tools have bypassed the relevant standards, which are stuck in the relative dark ages, and closed environments are the result.

Sure, the integration of Skype with Microsoft will open up video communications for the consumer, simply due to the pervasive nature of both businesses. Microsoft's market presence alone will enable Skype to expand both their user base and their use cases. That said, a more broadly available solution does not equate to a truly open platform for video communications.

History tells us open systems flourish and walled gardens are difficult to defend. We are at an interesting point in time where iOS (walled) and Skype (walled) are doing well -- and 8.5 billion dollars is a pretty good validation of a market.

But for video chat to really deliver the growth the market expects (and has expected for a decade if not more) we need complete demolition of the walls, enabling users to video chat across platforms and devices, with no regard for environment.

This was our vision when we launched OpenTok in November 2010. The open API-based platform enables any developer or website to integrate live video chat into their experience and has the potential to bring people together from across the web for face-to-face communications.

Since then we have worked with over 1,000 partners building truly innovative solutions that connect people across the Web. And with each development of the OpenTok platform we are one step closer to creating not just the infrastructure behind video communications across the Web, but also a means by which to connect people across the Web for face-to-face communications.

We welcome this move by Microsoft and congratulate Skype. This is an outstanding validation of the group video chat industry. Now let's tear down the walls and bring video to the masses."

About TokBox

OpenTok from TokBox is the leading global online video communications platform, enabling the addition of live group video communications into any web property. Incorporating solutions for enterprises, entrepreneurs and developers, anyone with a web presence can harness the power of live video to drive user engagement within their site or service.

The scalable, customizable platform incorporates proprietary quality-enhancing technology and enables high quality video sessions with up to 20 live participants and unlimited viewers.

TokBox is a privately held company headquartered in San Francisco, CA.

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