Alarm bells sound on Microsoft acquisition of Skype

And at the same time, there is also a risk that these types of technology deals could result in interruptions to vital communications as mergers and acquisitions continue.

According to the NCC Group, activities such as the acquisition of Skype by Microsoft highlights the uplift in mergers and acquisitions activity and the growing concern about source code maintenance.

In 2009, says the NCC, it was revealed that eBay had failed to purchase the core technology that powered Skype when it bought the company in 2005.

"The owners of Joltid Ltd (and Skype founders) claimed that the service was only licensed to Skype and after it expired in 2009 that Skype and its owners, eBay, were using the software illegally. While a legal battle was avoided, eBay was reported to be building the source code from scratch in a bid to avoid potentially expensive licensing deals", says the NCC.

Against this backdrop, experts at the NCC Group's Escrow division are now urging companies to consider the long-term availability of their software, in light of providers being acquired by larger competitors.

In these cases, says the NCC, new parent companies could discontinue specific software lines of acquired companies.

This means that, if a fault or similar problem occurs with the software, then the company using that software has no-one turn to remedy the issue.

To prevent this situation occurring, the NCC argues that organisations should consider a facility known as Software Verification and Escrow (SVE), which is used by businesses to ensure that they can continue to maintain and support essential software applications in the long term.

Under SVE, the source code to the application is stored with an independent third party, with the agreement of the software supplier.

This form of protection, says the NCC, allows the end user to legally redeploy software in the event that the original supplier is no longer able to provide maintain or support it - as could be the case should it be acquired by a third party vendor.

Mark Ormerod, group managing director at NCC Group Escrow, says that, whilst mergers and acquisitions may be great news for investors, they could potentially spell disaster for organisations that use applications to deliver critical functions.

"The message to businesses on software is clear: You may have paid for it and it may be central to your business, but you don't own it and if your supplier stops working with the software you can't fix it", he said.

"Losing access to a critical application could stop a business in its tracks, causing notable financial as well as reputational damage", he added.

Ormerod went on to say that, with the surge in mergers and acquisitions in mind, SVE should be considered by organisations to insure their software and combat this risk.

The NCC Group's warning is echoed over at Forrester Research, where analysts have pointed out the commanding position that the move gives Microsoft.

The commanding position in unified communications, says Henry Dewing and Ted Schadler, comes after Microsoft had little to say when instant messaging evolved into online voice and video calling.

The analyst's blogs throw up a number of potential regulatory questionmarks on the Skype acquisition, an area that will undoubtedly now be closely examined by the OFT and Ofcom in the UK and their counterparts in the US and the European Union, Infosecurity notes.

According to Forrester's Schandler, Microsoft's acquisition of Skype gives the Redmond giant another cloud service to sell, as well as a managed B2B conferencing service.

Henry Dewing, meanwhile, says that Skype has done something with viral marketing that no traditional campaign can - build a global peer to peer network with loyalty and some notion of identity.

The challenge for Microsoft, he adds, is how to grow a profitable business on that network that professionals are willing to pay for.

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