Following rumors of Facebook and Google eyeing a deal to acquire Skype, we now have a surprise winner who is none other than the beast from Redmond, Microsoft.
Microsoft and Skype have now obliterated any lingering doubt in the matter: the Redmond-based software giant will acquire the internet telephony company for a cool $8.5 billion in cash. Xbox and Kinect support are explicitly mentioned in the announcement of this definitive agreement, as is Windows Phone integration -- both the gaming and mobile aspects being presumably key incentives for Microsoft to acquire Skype. Importantly, this purchase shouldn't affect Skypers outside of the Microsoft ecosystem, as Steve Ballmer's team promises to continue "to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms." Skype was first sold for a relative bargain at $2.5b to eBay in 2005, who in turn sold most of it off to Silver Lake in 2009 at an overall valuation of $2.75b, and now Redmond is concluding proceedings by tripling those earlier prices and offering Skype a permanent home. A new Microsoft Skype Division will now be opened up to accommodate the newcomers, with current Skype CEO Tony Bates becoming president of that operation and reporting directly to Ballmer. The deal is expected to close by the end of this year.