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Skype gulps group app as it is swallowed by Microsoft

Redmond's in-house 'We're In' may in fact not be any more

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Another Microsoft me-too Web 2.0 project looks to be headed for the chop with Skype's proposed purchase of a mobile messaging start-up.

Skype is buying GroupMe, another app masquerading as a business, that has 20 employees and $10.6m in funding. The service lets you marshal your contacts into groups.

Microsoft itself is in the process of buying the loss-making Skype for a remarkable $8.5bn. This is remarkable in any world but more so when Microsoft could have got away with paying "just" $7bn.

Using GroupMe you can set up private chats, share your location and photos, and also conduct conference calls using boring old voice using its service.

GroupMe works on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

Terms of the deal have not been revealed, but Skype is reported to be chucking $85m at the two-year-old, 100-per-cent venture backed company.

Already, the deal's been explained in terms of battle lines being drawn and people running for cover: Skype bolstering its defenses against the remarkably similar Google Huddle, Facebook Messenger and Apple iMessage, while all are lining up against BlackBerry Messenger. Tiny GroupMe's founders, meanwhile, are reported to have cashed in rather than face the prospect of getting crushed by the settling tectonic plates of the internet's social-media giants.

However you scan it, the future can't be too bright for Microsoft's remarkably similar We're In from Bing. This also lets you create groups and throws in location based on, of course, Bing Maps.

Microsoft's been ruthlessly chopping all the projects it's spun up in recent years that simply replicate what's going on elsewhere, in an mission to reduce costs.

Going against We're In is the fact it's only for Windows Phone while GroupMe runs on devices competing with Windows Phone. Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer has committed to run Skype as a ring-fenced unit reporting only to Ballmer with Skype continuing to work on "non-Microsoft" platforms.

The question for Skype's impending owner will be whether it's worth owning something that's copying what everybody else is doing. Given the rising industry levels of excitement and paranoia about a Google versus Facebook war, Microsoft would seem very likely to keep Skype's GroupMe going. ®

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