The world of enterprise collaboration and the social enterprise is in for a turn, as Microsoft grabs VOIP and collaboration vendor Skype in a deal valued at US$ 8.5 bil. Last week, all the talk was of Google or Facebook buying Skype for something like US$ 4-5 billion, but Redmond has trumped them both with a monster offer.

After the Dialtone...

This new deal is Microsoft's largest ever acquisition and gives the OS-giant a useful tool to add on its Windows Phone 7 devices (Skype currently being a notable absentee). It also gives it a boost in social interaction via the likes of Facebook and puts it on a par with Apple's FaceTime and Google's Talk apps.

It will also give Microsoft a new and useful feature that it can include on the desktop for Windows machines, offering a beneficial new service (to the billions of users unaware of Skype), something that Windows has been sorely lacking in the social age.

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The deal was just announced officially suggesting that due diligence and tee-crossing and i-dotting has all been done.

According to Microsoft, this acquisition will spin off a new Skype division that will see Skype CEO Tony Bates as head honcho reporting directly to Steve Ballmer himself.

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Microsoft and Skype share the vision of bringing software innovation and products to our customers,” said Tony Bates. “Together, we will be able to accelerate Skype's plans to extend our global community and introduce new ways for everyone to communicate and collaborate,” Bates said.

Skype will be supported in xBox and Kinect, along with Windows Phone and a slew of other Microsoft devices. Skype users will also be connected with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. And, of course, it will continue to be supported on other platforms.

Microsoft hopes that the deal will give a much needed boost to its share price. It will also prove that the company is doing something useful with its US$ 50+ billion cash mountain, something that arch-rival Apple is looking increasingly passive about.

Finally, in the enterprise, Microsoft will be able to offer a more-rounded communications offering, without the vast expense of enterprise grade hardware. So, all things considered, the premium that Microsoft is offering above the rival offers, may be worth it, given the extra features and leverage across its range of operations that Microsoft can offer. 

This will be especially true if the company can leverage some of Skype's 140+ million users as a feeder to their Office 365 (including SharePoint Online) and other business collaboration offerings. With that said, optimism is not exactly how we'd characterize the industry response -- Microsoft has a big hill to climb in the public's eye, and it's not just Mac users.