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Microsoft hopes to bring Skype support to Xbox Live users

Tech giant made unsolicited offer to Skype

Xbox live users look set to be given the ability to use Skype from within the online gaming service following Microsoft's acquisition of the VoIP service.

Microsoft revealed today it had acquired Skype for $8.5bn. The tech giant made an unsolicited offer to the VoIP service earlier this year, and finalised the price of the acquisition in mid-April.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed the company plans to build and engage the existing Skype user base, while continuing to support and invest in Skype on non-Microsoft platforms.

Furthermore, Microsoft hopes to bring Skype to Windows Phone devices, along with TVs and even extend the reach to Outlook, Microsoft's unified communications solution Lync and Windows Messenger and Hotmail. Ballmer said in the future Xbox users cpuld potentially be able to play Kinect games with others that may not be in the same room.

Ballmer also revealed he hopes Skype will become a service that allows users to communicate across the whole of their lives, whether at home or at work.  "We want to stitch together the world," he said.

Skype has 170 million users worldwide, with 600,000 new registrations every day. Furthermore, in 2010 customer's of the VoIP service used 207 billion calling minutes.

Under the terms of the deal, Skype CEO Tony Bates will become president of the Microsoft Skype division and will report directly to Ballmer. The deal still has to be approved by a number of regulatory bodies.

Bates confirmed advertising within the VoIP service looks set to continue as it's "a very powerful monetisation stream" and will ensure Skype can stay true to its free routes. However, he said the adverts would be "rich media that creates a rich experience".

"Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world," Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said. "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."

Skype was founded by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis. The VoIP service was bought by eBay in 2005. After that company failed to figure out how to integrate it with its online auction business, it sold a majority stake to an investment consortium including its founders and Silver Lake in 2009.

According to Richard Ellis, director of communications technology provider 2e2, said the partnership will have many interesting connotations for business users, especially regarding how it could tie in with Microsoft's future Unified Communications offerings, such as its Microsoft Lync Server.

"Many organisations, despite having Microsoft on the desktop, currently use Skype as their messaging/VoIP client so looking ahead I can envisage much tighter integration with desktop applications such as Office. On the flip side, those organisations that have been reticent to allow employee usage of Skype due to security concerns may now start to reconsider their stance once it comes under the Microsoft banner."


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