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Microsoft to Buy VoIP Firm

Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) is acquiring a small Swiss voice-over-Internet protocol company in a move designed to speed up the software titan's effort to unify different forms of communication online.

Microsoft said Thursday that it has agreed to buy Media-streams.com, a privately held firm in Zurich, Switzerland. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Media-stream's VoIP technology, which enables telephone calls over the Internet, will become a core part of Microsoft's platform that enables workers to use the Web to collaborate on projects. Microsoft envisions such collaboration encompassing several different modes of communication, including email, instant messaging, Web conferencing and telephone calls via the Internet.

Media-streams is the second VoIP firm acquired by Microsoft in the last few months. In August, Microsoft acquired Teleo, whose VoIP technology was developed to work closely with Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer and was targeted specifically at mobile professionals.

While the technology from Media-streams and Teleo is more focused on workers, Microsoft also is using VoIP in consumer products, including its Xbox Live online video game service.

VoIP has become a key technology for Internet firms. Virtually all of the big Internet players -- Google (GOOG), Yahoo! (YHOO - Get Report) and Time Warner's (TWX - Get Report) America Online -- offer some form of VoIP telephone calling with their instant messenger services. And online auction firm eBay dived into the fray in September with its massive $4 billion-plus acquisition of VoIP phone company Skype.

Shares of Microsoft were up two pennies at $26.48 in recent trading.

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