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Would Microsoft's Skype buy strengthen Lync or push it off a cliff?

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Analysis Is Microsoft preparing to school Skype in technology that it recently described as the "next generation of unified comms", or has the company spotted a hole in its VoIP strategy that can only be filled by an expensive acquisition?

Worse than that, might Redmond simply be circling Skype with a potential multi-billion dollar deal in an effort to bag the company before its webby rivals Google and Facebook dive in?

Rumours about talks between Skype and several high profile internet firms have been ricocheting around for some time now. Most recently, it looked as though Facebook and Google might slug it out in a sweaty dancefloor grab for Skype.

Partnerships rather than a quick buyout looked more likely, up until now. Skype seemingly made its intentions pretty clear last year: to take the company public, eventually. In the meantime, its valuation has rocketed in line with other social media properties such as LinkedIn and, of course, Facebook.

As I've previously noted, all the noise and chatter among the networking2.0 classes may simply have been an effort, orchestrated by Skype's CEO Tony Bates, to woo a big name buyer to its door.

If a report in today's Wall Street Journal proves to be correct, Skype's daddy could soon be Microsoft, which is reportedly ready to part with between $7bn to $8bn to acquire the Luxembourg-based company.

Should such a merger take place, immediate questions arise about what this means for Microsoft's own unified comms platform – in the shape of Lync, which has undergone a recent rebranding, having been folded into the software giant's Office 365 beta effort last year.

Indeed, just last November, Microsoft wheeled out Bill Gates to anoint its software, which was previously dubbed Office Communications Server.

The Lync product, according to Microsoft's official blurb, brings together instant messaging, presence, audio, video, web conferencing and voice under one roof.

So would Skype's technology complement that existing service, or might it altogether replace Lync?

Gates made the following hyperbolic statement about Lync last year: "Unified communications is far stronger today than when we started on this path.

"This is probably the most important thing to happen for the office worker since the PC came along."

Six months on, and Microsoft could be on the verge of buying Skype. If it's true, is MS acknowledging to the world that the path it has been on with Lync – which is supposed to be slotted into the finalised version of Office 365 later this year – was ultimately a dead end in development terms? And is Skype the only way out of that technology dirge?

Alternatively, Redmond simply believes that VoIP is the final piece of the jigsaw for its unified comms strategy – albeit a massively expensive piece.

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