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

Talk is cheap, and $8bn is a lot

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And Skype could find its way into a mass of other Microsoft product lines. It could form the basis for a Apple Facetime competitor for Windows Phone 7 and flesh out the Windows messenger offering. It could also extend the Xbox Live service.

On the other side of the walled garden famously erected by Skype, readers might want to consider the VoIP company's inglorious record of serving its parent obediently.

In September 2005, online auction house eBay baffled many when it bought Skype for $2.6bn. When earnouts were included, the company actually paid over $3bn for the VoIP outfit. A little over two years later, eBay wrote off $1.43bn of the value of the acquisition.

By September 2009, eBay finally offloaded a majority stake in Skype to a gaggle of investors in a deal that valued the VoIP outfit at $2.75bn. The online tat bazaar kept a 35 per cent stake in Skype and got $1.9bn in cash for its trouble.

At the time eBay predicted that Skype would be making $1bn in revenues by 2011.

But cut to Skype's IPO statement filing in August 2010 and it was clear that the popular VoIP outfit remained wide of that mark.

In the first six months of 2010, it pulled in net sales of $406.2m and net income of $13.2m. Skype scored 2009 revenues of $719m, but also lost $99m in the same year.

And that just about brings us up-to-date, other than to point out that Skype said in March this year it would begin testing advertising on its service, which has recently drawn criticism from some of its users for not being as stable as it once was.

Since then, early stage talks with Google and Facebook have been cited. But Microsoft swooping in to buyout the firm, really?

Returning to Skype's IPO statement from last year offers a reminder that the two companies have more in common than they might seem to do on the surface.

Skype's current general manager David Gurlé worked at Microsoft for four years. He founded and ran Redmond's real time communications business in the early Noughties. Perhaps there is some synergy in a potential merger, after all. ®

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