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What Microsoft’s Skype acquisition means for social TV

Update: In a record acquisition for the company, Microsoft announced this morning it’s buying Skype for $8.5 billion. The real-time communications service has 170 million connected users, and for Microsoft, that was too good to pass up. Explains the release:

Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.

The social TV implications are many. Skype is increasingly appearing on connected TV sets with built-in cameras and apps. And, of course, Xbox integration is a no-brainer: Kinect already has a camera, and the voice and motion element will make calling grandma as easy as, well, saying “Xbox call grandma.” So in the very near future, just about every TV will be able to make a video call with other TVs, laptops or mobile devices. Sure, Apple’s Facetime is cool, but Skype has massive scale.

“We’re committed to optimizing Skype for the TV with Xbox and Kinect,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a webcast this morning. “(There’s) huge potential for us to create new user experiences and market opportunities.”

Skype also shares a relationship with Facebook, one of Microsoft’s most valued partners. Up until the acquisition was announced, some speculated that Facebook was buying Skype. Now that it’s in Microsoft’s corner — and not Google’s — there’s every reason to believe that Skype’s relationship with Facebook will expand, perhaps integrating Facebook chat with video calling. Phone books will become “Facebooks,” and the role of the television set will expand beyond TV to real-time communications.

For news organizations that increasingly use Skype for live interviews, the acquisition could be good news. Skype is still reeling a bit from its December outage, and Microsoft could beef up Skype’s dependability. For TV, that’s critical.

Finally, Skype is becoming a big video player — 40% of its daily calls are video calls. “Video ads is one of the biggest opportunities we see moving forward,” said Skype CEO Tony Bates. “We’re just at the beginning of that in the U.S.”

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