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Microsoft (s msft) confirmed it has agreed to buy Skype for $8.5 billion and plans to integrate it into a wide array of products, from Kinect and Windows Phone 7 to Lync, Outlook and Xbox Live. The deal caps a sudden turn of events for Skype, which had previously been the target of interest from Google (s goog) and Facebook, but then attracted attention from Microsoft. Om first broke the news about Microsoft’s interest in Skype, and last night nailed the purchase price. With the deal, Microsoft is taking a product eBay couldn’t integrate well (s ebay) and will try to use it to compete against Google, Apple (s aapl), Cisco (s csco) and others in the collaboration and communications space.
Microsoft said Skype will become a new business division, with Skype CEO Tony Bates assuming the title of president of the Microsoft Skype Division. The company said the acquisition will enhance its work in real-time communications, which includes Lync, Outlook, Messenger, Hotmail and Xbox Live. And it expects it to bring in new revenue and provide more benefits to both consumers and enterprise customers.
“Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a statement. “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.”
For Skype, the deal allows it to extend its reach and introduce new ways to communicate, said Bates. Microsoft said Skype currently has 170 million connected users and logged more than 207 billion minutes of voice and video conversations in 2010. For all its popularity, however, Skype has had trouble making money and posted a $7 million net loss in 2010.
Microsoft will have a big job on its hands in trying to make Skype work — in part because at $8.5 billion, it is Redmond’s biggest acquisition ever. As Om points out, Skype could give Microsoft a boost in the collaboration market and improve its Windows Phone 7 offering. It could also be an intriguing video-calling combination for Kinect, the gesture-based system for the Xbox. But big acquisitions also have a history of failure, so it remains to be seen whether Microsoft has the ability to turn Skype into a money-maker — especially considering its other online efforts haven’t seen much success.