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updated 5/10/2011 10:47:21 PM ET 2011-05-11T02:47:21

The recent announcement that Microsoft will acquire VoIP service provider Skype is big news. With a total price of $8.5 billion, it's easily the largest Microsoft acquisition in years. So what exactly will Microsoft do with its new VoIP service?

At first, it seems like a bit of a mismatch. Microsoft already has a similar service in place, Windows Live Messenger, which already offers text, voice and video chat over an Internet connection.

While Skype has better technology overall than Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft has other things in mind, said Aapo Markkanen, consumer mobility analyst for ABI Research.

"Microsoft could add a Skype-powered communication platform to Xbox and thus try to make it every home’s communication hub, while business users would benefit from Skype’s video conferencing and content-sharing features being integrated with Lync, Outlook or SharePoint," Markkanen told TechNewsDaily.

The Xbox game console is quickly becoming a more important home entertainment device than the humble desktop computer. Microsoft is already putting many social and non-game-centric features into the platform to make it even more accessible for every member of the family. Skype features would be a great addition to the Xbox portfolio.

The business side is also an obvious goal for Microsoft's Skype integration, especially as telecommuting and long-distance meetings are becoming more important for companies. Some early speculation indicated that Microsoft might make Skype exclusive to its Windows Phone platform (Skype is currently available on several mobile platforms as an app), but that might not be in Microsoft's best interest.

"I don’t think Microsoft will make [Skype] a Windows Phone exclusive, at least not entirely so. That would be both bad public relations and a wasted marketing opportunity. A much better way to go would be to keep a basic version of Skype open to all platforms, and then maybe make some features (video calling for instance) available only to Windows Phone handsets," Markkanen said.

Looking further afield, the acquisition of Skype could help Microsoft with projects and collaborations with other companies. The software and electronics giant has a hand in more than just Microsoft-branded services.

"It’s also worth bearing in mind that Microsoft owns a stake in Facebook, so that’s certainly another service where they may well leverage Skype and its capabilities. For instance, they could use it for developing Facebook’s chat application," Markkanen said.

Connectivity and communication are the name of the game in today's social-driven market, so there are literally dozens of opportunities for Microsoft to use Skype. Microsoft may have paid a lot of money for Skype, but it could still be a clever investment simply because there are so many ways it can be put to use.

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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