Just as November will see Microsoft asking Skype users to switch from Skype Classic to version 8, tech commentators are predicting that Microsoft and other companies will be looking to start reaping the financial benefits of offering blockchain as a service (BaaS).
Skype Classic Replaced By Version 8
Microsoft has announced that it will be moving all users of the Classic version of its Skype video call software to version 8 of the software from 1st November for desktop, and 15th November for mobile and tablets.
The company says that it will be sending out notifications to those using the older versions of Skype by the end of October to warn them that they may lose functionality if they don’t switch to version 8.
The reason for the move is to ensure that users of desktop and smaller screens i.e. tablets or mobiles have the same experience of the program. This is because version 8 applications have been optimized to work in conjunction with modern, mobile-friendly cloud services architecture.
Fewer Features, For Now
Microsoft has admitted that the newer version of Skype won’t offer the same features as the previous versions, but the company has said that it plans to re-introduce some of those features.
Meanwhile, Skype’s Insider community is able to access and test the new ‘Skype 14’ via the Microsoft Store.
Making The Most of Blockchain
Tech commentators have noted that Microsoft and many of the other big tech companies, including Amazon and Oracle, are now looking to make the most of the growing blockchain as a service (BaaS) market. Microsoft was one of the first software vendors to offer BaaS on its Azure cloud platform as far back as 2015, but the predictions are that from the end of this year onwards, the market (estimated to be worth $7billion) will start to grow rapidly.
What Is Blockchain?
Blockchain, the open-source, free technology behind crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, is an incorruptible peer-to-peer network (a kind of ledger) that allows multiple parties to transfer value in a secure and transparent way. Blockchain’s Co-Founder Nic Carey describes blockchain as being like “a big spreadsheet in the cloud that anyone can use, but no one can erase or modify”.
The BaaS market is likely to take off in a much bigger way because it offers enterprises the chance to deploy distributed ledgers without the cost or risk of deploying it in-house, and without needing to find in-house developers.
Big Tech Companies Well-Placed
Tech commentators have noted that as well as Microsoft, big companies who look well-placed to have the resources claim a major stake in the BaaS market include Amazon, Oracle, Salesforce.com, and VMware.
It is also believed that large online real-estate/mortgage companies such as Redfin, Zillow, and LendingTree could benefit from using blockchain-based online services in the transfer of property.
Real-World Blockchain Examples
The benefits of blockchain technology are already being in enjoyed by many companies, and some of the ways that it is currently being deployed include:
- Walmart’s pilots where the time it takes to trace a food item from shop to farm was reduced, through the use of blockchain, from 7 days to just 2.2 seconds.
- A pilot project between car-maker BMW and start-up Circulor with a view to eliminating battery minerals produced using child labour. In that project, blockchain is being used to help provide a way to prove that artisanal miners are not using child labour in their cobalt mining activities.
- Using the data on a blockchain ledger to record the temperature of sensitive medicines being transported from manufacturer to hospital in hot climates. The ‘incorruptible’ aspect of the blockchain data gives a clear record of care and responsibility along the whole supply chain.
- Using an IBM-based blockchain ledger to record data about wine certification, ownership and storage history. This has helped to combat fraud in the industry and has provided provenance and re-assurance to buyers.
- Shipping Company Maersk using a blockchain-based system for tracking consignments that addresses visibility and efficiency i.e. digitising a formerly paper-based process that involved multiple interactions.
- Start-up company ‘Electron’ building a blockchain-based system for sharing information between those involved in supplying energy which could speed up and simplify the supplier switching process. It may also be used for smart grid processes, such as local load-balancing of supply and demand.
It has also been reported that Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) has launched a BaaS flexible charging offering, and SAP has also launched BaaS on its Leonardo digital software platform.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
The fact that we now use mobiles devices more than desktop computers for work and leisure made it more or less inevitable that Microsoft would want to make changes to Skype to make the mobile experience of the program a priority.
The benefits of blockchain technology are just starting to be realised and exploited by many different companies around the world. The BaaS market is, therefore, still at the beginning of the curve, and it makes sense that big tech companies are well placed to be in the market early with their enterprise offerings. BaaS offers businesses the opportunity to harness the power and unique benefits of blockchain without the costs, and difficulties of trying to develop their own in-house offerings. Blockchain has already proven itself to be a technology that can save time and costs, provide fast and secure traceability, visibility and efficiency, and provide a real competitive advantage for companies that are willing to investigate how it could be used to add value to their particular business.
Even governments and cities around the world have realised the benefits and are committing considerable resources to the use of blockchain. For example, Dubai has committed to putting all of its documents on blockchain in the next few years and has founded a public-private initiative called the Global Blockchain Council to foster the development and use of blockchain technology in and between local government teams, local businesses and international start-ups.