Microsoft's Skype purchase gets the EC green light. Now what?

The European antitrust authorities have given the nod to Microsoft's acquisition of Skype.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

The European Commission's antitrust authorities have given Microsoft's $8.5 billion Skype acquisition regulatory clearance. So now it's all systems go for Microsoft to integrate Skype into its product line.

EU regulatory clearance was announced on October 7 -- just a couple of weeks after an Italian Skype rival raised concerns over Microsoft's bundling plans for the technology. U.S. antitrust authorities already granted their approval of Microsoft's Skype buy in June, 2011.

Skype has continued operating as an independent entity since Microsoft announced its purchase intentions in May 2011, (Skype will operate its own Microsoft business unit, according to Microsoft's previously announced plans.) However, Microsoft has been working behind the scenes to lay the groundwork for the Microsoftization of Skype.

Gurdeep Singh Pall, the former Microsoft Lync Corporate Vice President, has been focusing on integrating Skype with Microsoft's Lync unified communications/VOIP platform for the past several months. At the Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting in September, CEO Steve Ballmer told attendees that Skype would be a good addition to Lync for connecting to contacts outside the corporate firewall.

Lync isn't the only Microsoft product on tap to get a Skype infusion. Microsoft officials said earlier this year there were potential synergies between Skype and Outlook mail, Messenger instant-messaging, Hotmail Web mail and Xbox Live gaming service. Office 15, the next version of Microsoft's Office suite expected in late 2012 or early 2013, could incorporate Skype hooks. And a Skype client that will take advantage of coming Windows Phone 7.5 devices with front-facing cameras is surely not far off.

I've asked Microsoft if there are any further regulatory hurdles in other countries to clear before it's all systems go. (The company's statement today makes reference to "final steps needed to close the acquisition" but no further details.) I'll update this post once I hear back, but think the answer is it's full steam ahead now....

Update: Microsoft officials had no further comment on the final steps reference in the press statement. However, it does sound from what I'm hearing, the $8.5 billion Microsoft said it would pay for Skype won't change hands for a few more days. Other countries' regulatory scrutiny (if any) will likely continue, but the deal 's closing won't hinge on that, from what I've heard.

Update No. 2 (October 14): Microsoft's Skype acquisition became official, as of late on October 13.

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