Skype announced over the weekend that it has agreed to buy GroupMe, a New York-based provider of mobile group messaging services. The deal has reportedly been brewing for a few months and comes as Microsoft is still in the process of seeking approvals from regulators to close its $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype.
While no financial details have been disclosed, AllThingsD reports that Skype will pay around $85 million for GroupMe, which was founded in April 2010.
The messaging service lets you set up private group chats through text messages, share your location and photos, and also allows you to set up free conference calls. GroupMe offers its application on Apple's iPhone, Research In Motion's BlackBerry, Google's Android and most recently Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 for users to access the full range of features, but it also works through SMS for people without smartphones.
Skype said the deal is another step towards providing "a global multi-modal and multi-platform communications experience. It complements our existing leadership in voice and video communications by providing best in class mobile text-based communications and innovative features around group messaging that enable users to connect, share locations and photos and make plans with their closest ties." The GroupMe team will continue working on its standalone application, the main difference is that they will now have access to Skype's 175 million monthly connected users.
The acquisition comes at a time when software companies and internet giants are increasingly stepping into what had previously been the telecoms' turf, relegating them to just infrastructure providers.
Examples of this can be seen in the emergence of services like Viber, which enables free voice calls and text messages through Wi-Fi or 3G/4G, or the widely used BlackBerry Messenger. Other competitors in the same space as GroupMe include WhatsApp, Apple’s iMessage, Google’s Huddle and Facebook Messenger.