Summary:

Making its biggest bet yet on something it didn’t build, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) confirmed today that it is paying $8.5 billion in cash for S…

Skype
photo: Corbis

Making its biggest bet yet on something it didn’t build, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) confirmed today that it is paying $8.5 billion in cash for Skype.

In a statement, Microsoft said that the agreement has already been approved by the boards of both companies.

For now, Microsoft is very much playing up both the mobile and non-mobile aspects of the acquisition, in a very top-line description of how the combined entity will work:

The acquisition will increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications, bringing benefits to both consumers and enterprise users and generating significant new business and revenue opportunities. The combination will extend Skype’s world-class brand and the reach of its networked platform, while enhancing Microsoft’s existing portfolio of real-time communications products and services.

As expected, Microsoft will be looking to integrate Skype into a number of its existing products: Xbox, Kinect, Windows Phone, the enterprise IM service Lync, and Outlook are five named specifically in the release.

Microsoft says that it will continue to support Skype on non-Microsot platforms, too.

Tony Bates, who had been Skype’s CEO, will stay on and become the president of Microsoft Skype, which becomes a new division of the company.

To be clear, Microsoft is buying all shares of Skype, including those that had been retained by eBay (NSDQ: EBAY) when it sold around 65 percent of the company to Silver Lake Partners in September 2009 for approximately $1.9 billion. At the time, that deal valued the entire company at $2.75 billion. The list of shareholders selling to Microsoft today include eBay International AG, CPP Investment Board, Joltid Limited in partnership with Europlay Capital Advisors; and Andreessen Horowitz.

Skype currently has 660 million registered users of its Internet calling and messaging services. Active users are another story: there are only around 124 million of those. And if that’s a story, then paying users are no more than a margin note: there are only about eight million of those, according to the documents the company filed when it was still talking about an IPO.

That doesn’t mean that there won’t be money to be made in future, though. With eBay, the thinking was that Skype was a killer service without the right conduit for its use. Microsoft is no doubt forking out $8.5 billion on the same principle.

The companies are holding a press conference at 8am PT today, in both San Francisco and London, to discuss the news in more detail.

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