How Many Times Will Skype Be Acquired For Too Much Money By Big Tech Companies With Little Strategic Synergies?

from the the-big-huh? dept

You may recall, back in 2005, that the tech world let out a massive "Huh? when eBay acquired Skype for somewhere around $2.6 billion. eBay kept insisting there were synergies there, and lots of people tried to puzzle out what those might be. Calling people to discuss auctions? Auctions embedded in your phone? There was some vague talk about China, but it amounted to "lots of people use Skype in China," and didn't get much further than that. Just a couple years later, eBay was already writing off the supposed synergies and then gave up looking for the synergies altogether. Not so long ago, it spun the company out, and there were plans for an IPO.

Just a few days ago, there were rumors that both Facebook and Google were considering buying Skype at around $3 or $4 billion. In both cases, you could make out some potential synergies. Facebook has become a huge communications platform, and adding more voice capabilities could be compelling. Google, obviously, has Google Voice and owns Skype-clone Gizmo.

However, at the last minute, it appears that Microsoft swooped in and more than doubled the asking price, paying $8.5 billion. And, we're left with deja vu. It seems we're not the only one asking how this makes sense. It certainly has all the earmarks of a big company with too much cash feeling the need to do something to be considered relevant, especially after hearing that two of the newer darlings in the tech world were considering the buyout themselves.

Are there synergies here that make sense? Well, certainly more than existed with eBay. But enough to make it worth so much more to Microsoft than Facebook or Google? I can't see it. Also, almost everything I can think of where Microsoft might integrate with Skype would likely make the product more annoying and less valuable. And while Skype is definitely a great product -- I use it all the time -- and usage has steadily grown over the years, the company is still having trouble finding profits. $8 billion is a lot to spend on a company that keeps using up the red ink on its income statements.

Perhaps Skype just puts something in the water it serves in conference rooms that makes big tech companies go loopy, increasing how much they're willing to pay and seeing magic synergies where none really exist.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Lisa Westveld (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 5:06am

    I know why!

    Google and Facebook just pretended that they wanted to buy Skype, knowing that Microsoft would feel left out of some sort of communication technique. Now, Microsoft had to spend a huge amount of cash to take over Skype, thus having less cash to invest in something more useful.
    Of course, Skype has a big disadvantage: many mobile network operators will want to block Skype altogether from mobile phones and other devices, since internet has a fixed price but phone calls are paid for per call. So Microsoft gained something that's not very welcome on mobile devices. Great way to break theit Windows Mobile system! :-)

     

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    The eejit (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 5:14am

    Re: I know why!

    But then, MS can incorporate it into a business package with Windows Phone 8, and can offer Skype as a variant mobile carrier. Add in some HD audio codec compatibility, and it could get very interesting, very fast.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2011 @ 5:43am

    shares will tank

    cant wait to see how much msft tanks by.

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 5:43am

    The cool thing about Skype is that it's essentially platform agnostic. It runs on my PSP, my linux netbook, and my wife's iPhone... etc.

    If Microsoft buys Skype, it'll run on Windows (who uses that anymore?!), the Xbox, and whatever crap phone they're trying to sell.

    It'll be non-existent in five years or less.

     

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    Jay (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 5:44am

    Re: Re: I know why!

    This is Microsoft. When have they been known for speed and efficiency?

     

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    A Dan (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 6:06am

    Re: Re: I know why!

    I agree. The only "synergies" I can see are related to Microsoft's Windows Phone business. If they make Skype integration a tightly-integrated feature, and default to data calling instead of carrier calling, they could have a major impact on the cell phone market. Or maybe they just want to make a Google Voice competitor.

     

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    John Doe, May 10th, 2011 @ 6:12am

    eBay sure looks smart now

    Thanks to the feeding frenzy between tech giants, eBay sure looks like a savvy investor now. They tripled their investment. :)

    I think MS will be looking to offer it as a service with their phone platform similar to Google Voice. But now that it is owned by a mobile phone OS creator, watch the other phone OS owners shun it if they can.

     

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    hank, May 10th, 2011 @ 6:18am

    voice is so 1998

    With all the stories about how real time voice communication is inefficient, disrupting, rude, etc. and therefore dramatically being taken over by written communication, it would seem these voice services, while innovative and important for some uses, have nowhere to go but down as people realize it was actually the telegraph that should have evolved, not the awkward workaround we knew as the telephone.

     

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    Andy, May 10th, 2011 @ 6:26am

    Re: eBay sure looks smart now

    Ebay sold their stake of it for 2Billion, making a loss...?

     

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    Harryr3636, May 10th, 2011 @ 6:34am

    Re: eBay sure looks smart now

    Actually, makes ebay look even worse. Just 18 months ago they sold it for only $2B. So, in 18 months, the new owners quadrupled their investment.

     

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    taoareyou (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 6:37am

    It's a great service

    Been using Skype as my home phone for about a year now. I live in the mountains and don't get a good cell signal here because of the terrain. Skype charges me $2.99 a month and for that I get my own phone number. This means that people can call me directly from their landline, cellular or any software that can call phone numbers.

    I can also call anyone in the US and I think Canada (haven't looked into it since I don't know anyone there, yet) without any additional charges.

    I can do this from my computer or from my iPhone at any wifi hotspot (helpful again if the cell signal is not too great).

    I give out my Google Voice number as my primary contact, and that service rings my cell and my Skype.

    Not to mention all my friends from Facebook and gaming friends who have Skype can call me direct Skype to Skype without them having purchased a number and $3 a month subscription.

    My only concern is what changes Microsoft will make. I am perfectly happy with the service, but if they jack up the monthly fee, I will find some other solution.

     

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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 6:39am

    EEE or ...profit?

    Two possibilities I see:

    Bad: Embrace, Extend, Exterminate. Microsoft made an under-the-table deal with the wireless carriers that they'd acquire Skype and render it useless in the mobile space in exchange for the carriers pushing Windows Phone onto users who want Androids and iPhones.

    Good: Microsoft genuinely interested in integrating voice into Windows. (don't laugh, stay with me) Right now, Skype and VoIP through a computer are still small when compared to traditional phones/mobiles. Get enough regular non-internet-savvy users into voice chat using something other than a phone number. Integrate Skype through Messenger, through Windows Phone, and through their business apps like LiveMeeting and Communicator. Microsoft just might have the clout to really challenge the telcos.

     

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    Jober (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 6:41am

    My tea leaves are telling me that the obvious integrations are the ascendent portions of Microsoft's empire: Windows Mobile and XBox. If Skype has existing voice-handling infrastructure that can integrate with and either take some load off or augment either of those services, Microsoft can focus on keeping the mobile and gaming hardware optimized for those roles.

    Skype also has IM, videochat and desktop-sharing functionality built in. My company's primary product trainer is located 2000 physical miles from the home office, but still brings new hires up to speed on the product with effective demonstrations via Skype. I do the same thing with Windows Remote Assistance when my mom can't find a file on her computer. I think there are plenty of parallels and overlaps, given how much MS really does these days.

     

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    Cowardly Anon, May 10th, 2011 @ 6:42am

    Actually, I read this on a tech blog this morning and it makes sense. One thing M$ said they were thinking of doing with the technology was incorporating it into Xbox live, making communicating over their gaming platform better.

    It also said that it would be planning on connecting Skype into Outlook. For corporate clients this would be a great advantage.

    Yes, M$ is a huge company, and b/c it's so huge you can't see all of it. Assuming that they won't be able to put this technology to good use is rather naive on your part Mike.

     

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    DannyB (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 6:43am

    Re: Re: Re: I know why!

    I'm sure the mobile network operators would be just _thrilled_, yes positively overjoyed, I tell you (sarcasm), for Windows Phone 8 to have built in Internet calling that bypasses their well developed voice network and puts more load on their overloaded data network.

     

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    DannyB (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 6:45am

    Re:

    Skype also runs on Android phones. That simply cannot be allowed to continue!

     

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    Spaceboy (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 6:50am

    My bet is that they are going to integrate Skype with Windows Phone 7. Skype + Nokia + WP7 might be a good combination.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2011 @ 6:54am

    Re:

    I accord this a high degree of probability. It's a pattern that Microsoft has executed before. For example, they (relatively) recently acquired FAST, a multiplatform search engine product used by quite a few prominent operations. One of their first decisions was to drop support for all platforms but Windows. As a result, many of those operations are now dropping FAST in favor of solutions like Solr/Lucene.

    So yes, they will probably make Skype Windows-only, an entirely stupid but predictable decision.

     

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    Anonymous Coward (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 6:57am

    Consider this

    Consider this:
    Skype to be integrated into every windows PC in the world with a service pack update. This now grows Skype's accessibility and awareness virtually over night. Because it is there, it will be used. Keep it as a cross platform service while having it as a "standard" feature in Windows.

    Just a thought.

     

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    Nicedoggy, May 10th, 2011 @ 7:01am

    Micro$oft has balls I give them that.
    Telecoms everywhere are annoyed right now I believe.
    If there is a company that can f. them up is Micro$oft.

    For some reason I remembered this music "Tongue Tie" from the Red Dwarf Series.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3t3IKlXqFU&feature=related

     

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    chris (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 7:02am

    skype is a new form of ponzi scheme

    it's a slow moving double pyramid scheme:

    2001 kazaa steals all the music in the world
    2003 kaza gets sued for stealing all the music in the world
    kazaa dudes hide out in eastern europe
    kazaa dudes develop skype
    2005 ebay buys skype for billions
    ebay unwittingly pays off kazaa lawsuits
    achievement unlocked: ponzi scheme
    2008 ebay and skype don't get along
    ebay realizes it was scammed
    spins off skype into it's own company
    2011 MSFT buys skype
    achievement unlocked: double ponzi

    i've got to hand it to the guys at skype. 8 years is a lot of time to invest in a con, and based on the billions spent on it, the long con clearly pays off.

     

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    Nicedoggy, May 10th, 2011 @ 7:08am

    Re:

    Red Dwarf - Tongue Tied Lyrics
    My knees began to quiver (quiver)
    And I got a funny feeling (feeling)
    In my kidneys and my liver (digestive system baby)

    My hands they started shakin' (shakin')
    My heart it started thumpin' (boom, boom, boom!)
    My breakfast left my body (Heuey, heuey, heuey)
    It really tells me something.

    Girl, you make me tongue tied (tongue tied)
    Tongue Tied. Whenever you are near me (near me)
    Tied tongue (tied tongue)
    Tied tongue (tied tongue)
    Whenever you're in town.
    You make me feel like a clown, girl.
    .
    .
    .

     

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    Keith, May 10th, 2011 @ 7:09am

    .net passport Yay!

    And think of the joy we will all have using .net passport with Skype!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2011 @ 7:11am

    Response to: Ima Fish on May 10th, 2011 @ 5:43am

    +1

     

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    crade (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 7:18am

    Re: skype is a new form of ponzi scheme

    Plus, skype is awesome and we all get to use it as a bonus!

     

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    The eejit (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 7:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I know why!

    But that's just a failure to adapt - what could be a smarter seal, is for Skype to add a monthly subscription service to allow you to call through Skype from your mobile. It's an opportunity for telcos to adapt their networks for a better service for mobile carriers.

     

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    Keith, May 10th, 2011 @ 7:20am

    Re: Re: eBay sure looks smart now

    This goes with the ebay business model. You auction something cheaper than what you normally pay retail. Microsoft payed retail. See it all works.

     

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    crade (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 7:22am

    Google has voice chat and Microsoft wants to compete with google. Plus Microsoft jumps into everything computer or internet related. Often have-assedly.

     

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    overmyhead, May 10th, 2011 @ 7:22am

    Not such a silly idea....

    I can see many potential synergies between skype and MS, especially in the enterprise. One of MS' favorite topics at the moment is collaboration. Just talk to any share point rep and you'll get an ear full. Skype provides them with several new and, dare I say, innovative routes to collaboration. Internal to the enterprise, every user would have easy access to a high quality voice and video conferencing service on a variety of devices. Although MS communicator already provides this capability, I have rarely seen it work as advertised.

    With a bit of tweaking, MS could offer companies a secure hosted voice and video conferencing facility that is open to external parties and very easy to use. Users would be able to make and receive voice and video calls to any other company that has the MS Skype service enabled on the desk top or just voice calls to anyone with a phone line. With integration into other services like share point and live meeting, the possibilities are endless.

     

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    CommonSense (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 7:25am

    Re: Re: I know why!

    Yeah, interesting for the 7 or 8 people still sticking with Windows Phone whatever when version 8 comes out....

     

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    salim Fadhley, May 10th, 2011 @ 7:28am

    xbox!

    Skype on Xbox 360 with kinnect support. Suddenly the Xbox kills all those overpriced Cisco telepresence systems.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2011 @ 7:34am

    Re: voice is so 1998

    Nonsense. Voice is clearly the superior medium. You can't communicate in text a fraction of the nuance contained in a tone of voice.

    See!? My disgust with your trolling antics barely comes through at all.

     

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  33.  
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    Rich Fiscus (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 7:42am

    Re: Re: Re: I know why!

    While it sounds great to integrate Skype into the Windows Phone platform, that seems more harmful to Windows Phone than beneficial to Skype. The problem is Microsoft's position in the smartphone market. They're basically an also-ran right now. In the time since the launch of Windows Phone 7, iOS and Android marketshare has continued to rise, Symbian and Blackberry have continued to fall, and Windows Phone has pretty consistently gone nowhere. Apple, and to a lesser extent Google, are in a position to make demands of US mobile carriers. Microsoft, on the other hand, needs to ask politely.

    I suspect they're more interested in some type of integration with Exchange Server and possibly Outlook. I'm just not quite sure how much money that's worth. It could potentially become a trump card for the mobile market. Apple and Google aren't too worried about Windows Phone features, but they do need to maintain a certain level of compatibility with Exchange Server to compete for business customers. Likewise, corporate customers have a lot more influence on mobile carriers than Microsoft. If they could get all three on their side, if somewhat unenthusiastically in the case of Apple and Google, maybe they're suddenly in a position to push Skype on mobile networks. That's a lot of ifs and maybes, but it also seems to match a lot of Microsoft's moves in recent years.

    Or maybe Microsoft doesn't have any idea what to do with Skype and just wants to keep them away from Google and Facebook. With most companies I'd probably say the simpler answer makes more sense. In Microsoft's case it seems like more of a toss up.

     

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    BigDogRMF (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 7:48am

    Re: MS

    True, you can't see them... but you can smell them a mile away.

     

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    Old Fool (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 7:51am

    yipee

    Sweet, I hope Microsoft fall flat on their face over this.

    They are a dinosaur who rode to high profits on a monopoly of PC OS's. I'm fed up with them crushing small companies who look like a threat because their software is better, maybe when they are gone we might get less bloat and more security.

     

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    Overcast (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 7:58am

    Skype, Facebook...

    Just yet another bubble, waiting to bust. No way I'd even invest a penny in them, lol.

    But hey, I could well be very wrong. Facebook *might* have had some potential if not for all the privacy issues. I have a facebook account, but I would not dream of using it to 'login' or otherwise bank *anything* on it.

    I see a lot of pages now that say 'login with your facebook account' - ummm, no way. I do NOT trust facebook.

     

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    Ryan Diederich, May 10th, 2011 @ 7:58am

    My view of the future...

    In the future, it will be too easy for consumers to create content. Because of this, content companies (like television/radio stations) will slowly disappear. In lieu of these, places like youtube will be the new TV.

    The winners of this time period will be the companies that own the most popular/widely used communication and search programs. This is why Google created phone, email, TV, they are even buying portions of the "Dark Fiber Network".

    Because Google already released their version of phone (FOR FREE) i dont see them buying skype.

    Facebook however, it sounds like a match to me. I want a call button below everyones picture.

     

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    Jason G. (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 8:11am

    Overlooking many benefits

    I can't say I agree with your assessment here. As an employee at an offsite location for my job, I use MS Office Communicator on a daily basis for text chat, but even though it has voice and video built in, I still use Skype because the sound quality and interface are better. At home, I have an Xbox with a Kinect, and maybe people don't know this, but there was a launch day video calling app for the Kinect, but it is essentially worthless right now since no one I would call has a Kinect. However if MS integrates Kinect video calling with Skype on PC, suddenly all kinds of non-video game people become available, making it a very useful service. I'm very pleased with this purchase, and I think it will improve a number of MS services I already use.

     

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    Wayne Myer (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 8:17am

    This seems a little obvious to me...

    Microsoft has a VoIP product for the enterprise (Lync), but it is not all that compelling, despite its deep integration with Office and SharePoint.

    Skype actually seems like a much more natural addition to the MS quiver. Via plugins or a new client app, Skype could easily integrate into a small business or larger business plan, especially with Skype's commercial offerings, such as Skype for Business. Now, with your MS Office license, you could have deep integration with Skype for collaboration and sharing.

    Throw in some Win Phone 7 integration, and now we're cooking with fire. There would be large advantages for small businesses already running an MS shop.

    I see good things in the future from this purchase, provided that MS doesn't kill off Skype for other platforms.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2011 @ 8:35am

    Absolutely it makes sense Mike. Microsoft and Cisco are competing heavily in the corporate world in the collaboration arena; combining web conferencing, video, voice, and instant messanging together, then integrating that product with your office's email/voicemail/phone system solution.

    Productivity is the latest IT push and with the corporations trying to force people to telecommute, there's a huge market for someone who can provide a solution that makes you feel like you're in the office.

    Buying Skype gives Microsoft the ability to greatly increase their user base, since many more users are familiar with Skype than Webex.

    Microsoft buying skype appears to me to be much more aimed at Cisco than Google.

     

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    Tom Betz (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 8:38am

    Has anyone thought about patents?

    What patents does Skype own that Microsoft could use to troll all the other VOIP providers into submission, just as Microsoft is now trying to troll Android phone builders into submission?

    I suspect that patents are the real reason Microsoft bought Skype.

    I see a purchase like this one, I immediately think "Intellectual Ventures".

     

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    harbingerofdoom (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 9:22am

    all the webconference and office integration stuff is spot on and i agree 100%.

    dont forget a couple other areas too:
    overhaul live messenger take the best of both parts and create a single better product (yes, i realize im talking about microsoft... but hey, it could happen)

    and the biggest point outside of corporate use is xbox.
    they will add it to the 360 thats a no brainer. but the next gen console is already in development. now is the time to replace the (lets face it) piss-poor excuse for XBL live chat with something that actually works and works well with little bandwidth overhead. and i believe they are looking at skype to fill that role. i find it just too coincidental that they are buying it right now out of the blue now that reports are starting to filter in that the initial dev consoles are starting to make their way out to game devs.

    if it were strictly about corporate use and just having it because of name recognition, they wouldnt have paid as much as they did. they are banking on having it for something big that they need right now and the next gen xbox is the next big thing they are working on followed by win8 which will probably hit the market within 6 months of each other sometime mid to late 2012.

     

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  43.  
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    Ravi, May 10th, 2011 @ 9:54am

    Re: EEE or ...profit?

    The most sane comment here as opposed to the many biased ones.

    Microsoft has a huge Unified Communications (UC) division. Skype will be a good, widely used and popular addition to the UC suite. While UC has so far targetted mostly corporate clients, Skype will allow Microsoft to expand to a more individual user base. Google has made a big foray into communications with Google Voice/Google numbers. Apple, Facebook the other two dominant tech players are big into communication too.

    Don't be surprised if, Microsoft lets Facebook integrate Skype for an even stronger search relationship.

     

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    John Doe, May 10th, 2011 @ 10:00am

    Re: eBay sure looks smart now

    It seems I was wrong here and have been appropriately taken to task. I did not realize eBay had already taken a loss. So the new owners sure look good don't they? :)

     

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    The eejit (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 1:46pm

    Re:

    Also, consider this: The Steam and Impulse clients now use the Skype codec for gaming. Now, imagine that there was Skype on your 360, and you can see where this is going, if you can integrate Windows gaming and XBox gaming...

     

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    Mick, May 10th, 2011 @ 2:17pm

    A fool and his money

    soon go seperate ways

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2011 @ 3:17pm

    The windows phone, can become something else with certain voip technology, cloud services for every microsoft app, Google voice isn't going to be "free" forever, so it will be in demand by the time the colinux kernal merges ubuntu cloud with microsoft cloud, remember that linux offers huge server potential, voip cross platform servers, that might be lucrative in china and india.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2011 @ 4:58pm

    Skype seems to have been bought and sold by everyone.

     

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    techflaws.org (profile), May 11th, 2011 @ 5:55am

    Re: voice is so 1998

    Yeah, right. That's why kids spent 25+ texts conveying a message that could have been dealt with over voice in 30 secs.

     

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    techflaws.org (profile), May 11th, 2011 @ 5:59am

    Re: Re: EEE or ...profit?

    Microsoft has a huge Unified Communications (UC) division.

    And an even huger of botching things with me-too products. So much for bias.

     

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  51.  
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    Wes Sumner, May 15th, 2011 @ 10:44am

    MS Skype Purchase

    Several reasons for MS to purchase Skype:

    Business app integration

    Gaming Division integration (XBox/Games For Windows)

    Hardware/Software Phone integration

    Windows 8 integration (where it is desperately needed, especially considering it is more highly reliant on online components than previous versions)

    Windows Live!/"value add" app integration

    Licensing access to Facebook

    Giving the NSA a free, warrantless backdoor into all of the encrypted conversations

    And those are just what I've come up with off the top of my head.

     

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