Software titan Microsoft just purchased Skype, whose voip-based services have made it one of the largest players in the web telecommunications space. The deal, for $8.5 billion in cash, provides a major benefit to Microsoft, which has struggled to remain competitive with their Live Meeting offerings and significantly expands their consumer base, but also indirectly provides benefits to Facebook, a Microsoft investee – by marrying Skype capabilities with Facebook’s core systems, Facebook can get a significant leg up on phone connectivity between its members significantly expanding its standing as a social communications medium.
Moreover, there’s the question of whether this deal was motivated more by the need for Ballmer to show himself as being aggressive in the marketplace than it was for the stockholders. Ballmer has been far less aggressive in the market space than Gates was, and has often been swayed more by the desire to get the hottest properties rather than the ones that made the most competitive sense for the company. Skype was an old maid – it had been sitting out in the marketplace for a while, represents older technologies, and really was most valuable for its installed customer base – most of which were looking to pay as little as possible to use its services. This doesn’t really bode well for Ballmer moving forward – indeed, it may prove to be the final misstep in a series of questionable buyouts and investements.