Microsoft lands Skype

Microsoft has announced its biggest acquisition ever: It intends to buy Skype, the Internet telephone service once owned by eBay for $8.5 billion.

“Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a statement announcing the deal. “Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world.”

Microsoft intends to maintain Skype as an independent business unit, with Skype CEO Tony Bates becoming president of the new Microsoft Skype Division. “Together, we will be able to accelerate Skype’s plans to extend our global community and introduce new ways for everyone to communicate and collaborate,” Bates said.

The acquisition returns Skype, founded in 2003 by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friss based on peer-to-peer technology created for their Kazaa music downloading service,- to ownership by a corporate tech giant. San Jose online auction company eBay bought Skype in 2005 for $3.1 billion; eBay later said that it paid too much in that deal.

By 2009, though, eBay sold a controlling stake in Skype in a deal worth about $2 billion to investors including two Silicon Valley venture capital firms, Silver Lake Partners and Andreessen Horowitz, as well as the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Blogger and industry commentator Ted Schadler noted three benefits that Microsoft gets from the deal;

First, Microsoft gets an important consumerisation brand.

Second, they get another cloud service to sell

Third, Microsoft gets the opportunity to provide managed B2B video conferencing. Microsoft’s Lync product delivers audio and video and chat and Web meetings, but only to other other employees or close partners. But with a managed gateway between Skype and Lync, people could use Lync-to-Lync to connect to colleagues and Lync-to-Skype to connect to customers and partners with video, audio, and chat. “Can’t I already do this today with Skype” I hear you ask. Yes, you can. But only if IT looks the other way. With a Microsoft-sanctioned solution, IT could sign off on the practice.

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