Why Microsoft & Skype ?

Some years ago I remember sitting down over a coffee in the New York Times canteen discussing why Ebay had bought the online telephony service, Skype with a tech correspondent on the newspaper.

My conjecture at the time was that it would enable Ebay to offer services on its platform. Another theory we came up with that it was all about margins. But, frankly, we were lost.

And so it seemed was Ebay, who it turned out hadn't even bought the IP rights to the business.

So, with the original founders largely back in control they seem to have managed to sell it once more, this time to Microsoft. So, that same old question rears its head: why ?

Well, one big change between then and now for me personally is that I have dropped all other IMs and only use Skype. As Microsoft mulls life in the cloud, buying one of the most successful cloud based systems, which has nary a competitor, makes a lot of sense.

It also plays to two more areas where Microsoft has failed to find much purchase: mobile and social.

Finally, it provides a hub to the company's long nurtured hopes of being a dominant source in the living room.

Microsoft needs to rapidly re-invent itself as a service company leasing software to customers, and owning their mobile phone bills is an interesting place to start. Skype has a mature online billing system and tens of millions of users - not a bad platform to plug other services into, including the faltering MSN division of the company.