This post has been updated (as noted) with additional information learned after posting.
Skype lovers might be a little unhappy today: Microsoft is gobbling up the popular voice and video chat service. It is not yet clear whether or not this will be a good or bad thing for current Skype users. But the $8.5 billion acquisition might seem a curious one for Microsoft. What does a company best-known for its operating system want with online communications technology?
Business Videoconferencing Capability
The biggest synergy for this deal could be through Microsoft's Office suite. With a little additional development, Microsoft could now quickly and easily roll out a great videoconferencing experience. They could bundle something like a "Microsoft Meeting" in their Office Professional suite. Any companies, no matter how large or small, could quickly and easily utilize videoconferencing across the world, while referring to Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, or Word documents.
There are some players in this field already like Cisco's WebEx. But given the prominence of Microsoft's Office, if bundled, the new capability should compete quite nicely.
Update: Except that Microsoft already has such a product ("LiveMeeting")! So perhaps the hope here is that Skype's global footprint and infrastructure could strengthen its position in this market.