In a rather surprising and aggressive move, it was announced by Microsoft today that they are buying the communications company Skype for $8.5 billion in cash. Skype is a market leader in peer to peer VoIP and in 2010 had in excess of 170 million connected users. The full text of the press release can be found here.
The deal will apparently enable Microsoft to support Skype on a variety of devices and services like X-Box, Kinect, Windows phones and other Microsoft applications like Outlook, Messenger and Hotmail. With iOS and Mac versions of Skype, it is notable that the company will reportedly continue to offer support for non-Microsoft platforms i.e. Apple users.
The deal, thought by some to be an overpayment, clearly signals Microsoft’s intentions to compete with Apple’s Facetime technology which has become increasingly popular with the release of Facetime compatible devices such as the iPhone 4, the iPad 2, the iPod Touch and the Mac edition of Facetime. Additionally, the new MacBook Pro and iMac are shipping with Facetime HD cameras enabling high quality video conferencing.
Given that the Mac version of Skype hasn’t always been the most modern or well implemented communications application on OS X, it’s unlikely that Apple are going to break a sweat over this just yet. However, it will be interesting to see if the Microsoft purchase results in increased investment and development of the Mac version, prompting Apple to up their own game with Facetime.