What tech giant may have in store for its new $8.5bn toy

THE adjectives “stunned” and “shocked” have become commonplace in a technology world where mammoth valuations are almost de rigueur; Facebook worth more than $60bn, Groupon rejecting a $6bn offer, LinkedIn valued at up to $3.3bn.

But even in this context Microsoft’s $8.5bn swoop for Skype has raised eyebrows and dropped jaws. Analysts have been falling over themselves to explain the rationale of this bumper investment. Perhaps the most intriguing prospects relate to synergies with Microsoft’s struggling mobile phone business.

Ballmer has already made it clear that knocking Google’s Android off its perch is a priority for the firm, which handed over an estimated $1bn to Nokia to develop handsets for its Windows Phone 7 software.

A fully integrated Skype service could give its mobile platform the extra push it needs to build on its disappointing market share in the US.

Microsoft will also look to integrate Skype technology into its Xbox gaming hub, and its Office software to lure corporate customers.