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While regulators have yet to give Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) the final approval to buy Skype, the Internet communications company is making some acquisitions of its own. Today, it announced that it will be acquiring GroupMe, a group messaging company, for
an undisclosed sum a price reported to be between $50 million and $85 million.
GroupMe, which was only founded in 2010, lets users form groups on the fly. These groups can then text message each other and make group conference calls, as well as share photos and locations and calendars — all free of charge. The service works on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and (most recently) Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 devices.
Although the official press release from Skype does not give a value to the deal, Beta Beat is reporting that it is “just north” of $50 million. Meanwhile, AllThingsD notes its sources are reporting the price closer to $85 million.
Luxembourg-based Skype already offers video calling services, although it comes at a price — currently $4.99 per month for each user.
The acquisition speaks to areas that Skype is hoping to expand in its own product lines: more mobile services, more social features — and potentially more value-added services that it can incorporate into charging models. In a blog post, Skype’s CEO Tony Bates notes: “This acquisition is another step towards our vision to provide a global multi-modal and multi-platform communications experience.”
Since forming last year at an event sponsored by TechCrunch (which also broke the acquisition news today), GroupMe has picked up just under $11.5 million in funding: in 2010, $850,000 from Betawords, SV Angel, First Round Capital, Lerer Ventures and others; and then this year another $10.6 million from Khosla Ventures, General Catalyst and previous investors.
Far from being a messaging service aimed only at enterprises (like Yammer, for example), GroupMe has been making some strides into the consumer market by linking up with brands and events to increase its profile and relevance there as well: earlier this year it announced that the music event Lollapalooza and the TV show Dexter would both be using GroupMe’s APIs in their apps for their respective audiences to add more social features and to connect with each other via those platforms.
In a separate press release, GroupMe co-founder Steve Martocci notes that GroupMe will be integrating with Skype. Jared Hecht, meanwhile, notes that the GroupMe team will continue to develop more products to pad out its social offerings.
It will be interesting to see whether that will include integration with Qik, the video-sharing application that Skype acquired earlier this year to extend its services in video messaging.
The other big question mark is how and if we will start to see some of GroupMe’s features appearing in a Skype/Facebook service, or whether Facebook will see these new features and services as a threat to its own ambitions in this area.