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Gates defends Ballmer's Skype gamble

'A great deal for Microsoft'

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Somebody big has come to the defense of Steve Ballmer's $8.5bn purchase of web telco Skype - the biggest deal in Microsoft's history.

Bill Gates – Ballmer's colleague and long-time friend – apparently urged fellow board members to support Microsoft's move for the ex-eBay loss maker. "I was a strong proponent at the board level for the deal being done," Microsoft's chairman told the BBC's Hardtalk program.

"I think it's a great, great deal for Skype. I think it's a great deal for Microsoft," he said here.

According to Gates, video conferencing is going to get a lot better than it is today, while Skype pulls in "a fair bit of revenue." Skype reported a $7m loss in 2010, compared to a $418m loss the year before.

While we don't doubt Gates' desire to deflect the heat going Ballmer's way for spending so much on a company with no solid revenue model, he's doing more harm than good. Gates' comments reveal the seven other board members were not behind the deal. Further, it suggests that Ballmer alone was unable to convince doubters to support the deal and that it took the mighty weight of Microsoft's co-founder to swing them. ®

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