Skype has announced that it is in talks to buy the group messaging company, GroupMe. Details of the deal have yet to be announced, but rumors are that Skype could be shelling out $85 million to close the deal. In a world where all the new toys seems to be happening in the mobile industry, there are similar offerings expected soon such as Facebook’s Messenger, Apple’s iMessage, and Google’s Huddle.
GroupMe is a group messaging service that is only a year old, having been created at a hackathon at 2010’s TechCrunch Disrupt. GroupMe quickly became one of the more popular mobile phone apps currently sending out over a million texts every day. The software combines group texting and conference call features for free to people with iPhone, Android, Blackberry or WP7 smartphones. This service encourages ongoing, mobile based conversations for groups. A user can pick up their phone, group people together, then send texts to the whole group. This is a great solution to the problem that many cell phones limit the amount of people users can send a text to. The idea was to make it more difficult to spam people via text message but it does make it difficult to get information out to groups of people with a cell phone. GroupMe is changing the way people communicate to each other.
Why is Skype interested in GroupMe? In the mobile industry, the big players are scrambling to acquire and expand as quickly as possible to either keep up or stay ahead of their competition. Skype already has a solid customer base of over 170 million connected users who use the company’s free video chat and calls over the Internet to stay in touch with friends, colleagues and family around the world. In fact, Skype boasts over 200 billion minutes worth of calls last year alone. However, in a world that is going increasingly mobile, word is competitors like Facebook are already trying to find ways to incorporate video chatting into their offerings. This leaves Skype in a position where they need to find ways to engage new customers and keep up with trends and the mobile industry is where the tech industry is heading.
Even more interesting is the fact that Microsoft is in talks to buy Skype for $8.5 billion. Microsoft is also looking for ways to stay relevant as Google and Apple keep purchasing smaller assets and expanding their services. In May, Microsoft announced they were in negotiation with Skype to purchase their reliable service, which could be a win/win for both Skype and Microsoft. The assumption is that Skype would be an excellent addition to the upcoming Windows Phone 7, and the addition of GroupMe to the package adds another mobile component to Microsoft’s arsenal.