The acquisition of Internet communications company Skype for $8.5 billion dollars marks Microsoft's biggest acquisition ever, topping the purchase for digital marketing agency aQantive back in 2007.
Microsoft hosted a live web conference earlier today to present the deal and answer questions. We'll get onto how Microsoft might incorporate Skype shortly, but given that Skype was valued by its owners at $2.7 billion less than two years ago, we were looking forward to how CEO Steve Ballmer would deal with the question of the price, which we assumed would be the first.
But not only was it not the first question asked, it didn't come up at all in a room full of analysts and journalists. Odd. Now we're not saying this isn't a good deal for Microsoft, and you would expect an unsolicited offer to have some kind of premium, but it's hard to believe the value of Skype has more than tripled in two years, even though stock markets have risen a fair bit in that time.
Anyway, "Think about every day experiences and how they can become more connected," said Ballmer to set the scene for the acquisition. He went on to stress how ‘engaged' Skype users are - in other words they actually use it - and how video chat now accounts for over 40 percent of Skype use.
There were a lot of references to one of Microsoft's key strategies: three screens, which aims for Microsoft ubiquity on the PC, TV and mobile phone. Skype calling, and especially video calling, could occur in the office, the living room and on the go, with Ballmer referring to Kinect as potentially "a home video conferencing system."
The Q&A session was cagy, both from a Microsoft and audience perspective. There didn't seem to be many tough questions asked, just queries about how Skype will be utilized by Microsoft, which led to reasonably generic statements about how excited everyone is, the sky's the limit, etc. Ballmer was challenged about Skype on rival mobile platforms, but he insisted they would still be supported and pointed to Office on the Mac as evidence of Microsoft's track record on that sort of thing.
Here are a few shots of slides shown during the presentation.