I hate to have a cynical take on this, but. This acquisition has more to do with shoving a sharp stick into Google, than it does about propping up the Live offerings. The only people that I know that use Skype are expats, people with family that live abroad.
I'm not sure what kind of patents Skype holds. But I'm sure they, when placed in Brad Smth's hand, could be used to make Larry Page just a little more bat-SHlT crazy.
I disagree. I don't believe Google Voice has ever been considered a major threat in the VOIP sector; I don't feel Google and Skype really had much to do with each other in the first place. If Microsoft wanted to shiv Google they'd do better than $8.5bn on a company that wasn't really competing with Google; I'd spend that money to buy up 2nd place web 2.0 sites like Vimeo, MetaCafe, Photobucket, ImageShack and DailyMotion, rejig them to be more 'modern' and usable (with the exception of the already excellent Vimeo) combine their userbases and pose a viable threat to YouTube. As a bonus I'd work out deals with major TV studios to permit clips of their shows to be submitted by site viewers.
Or do a one-up on Google's Street View: it costs $50m to launch a satellite into space in a low-orbit. For $8.5bn Microsoft could have launched 170 orbiting satellites that could provide near real-time video footage of the earth's surface at sufficiently high imaging resolution. Right now the Google Earth photos of my house are over 5 years old, with "Microsoft Windows Live Real-Time Earth Platform 2011 Professional Edition" they would never be more than 30 minutes old.
Let's turn this thread into a "more productive ways Microsoft could have spent that 8.5bn dollars on".
Ooooh, here's another: finding a cure for Aids and save the lives of hundreds of millions of people, but as a catch make sure they call buy copies of Windows to justify the average $85 cost per-person.
$8.5 billion dollars is a huge some of money. It's obscene and disgusting that something that could directly go towards saving and/or substantially improving the lives of billions of people can be written off a business expense when the deal falls-through 2 years from now. I weep for humanity.