Microsoft is acquiring Swiss software company Media-Streams with the aim of adding voice-over-IP (VoIP) functions to its Office products, it revealed today.

It did not reveal what it will pay for acquire the Zurich-based company. The technology it gains as a result of the deal will help it add VoIP to the Office Live platform, which already supports real-time communications through instant messaging.

VoIP is big business, not idle chatter

VoIP is big business as evinced by eBay's $2.6 billion acquisition of Skype Technologies last month. Its image has been changing from something that consumers use to make cheap, low-quality voice calls via their PCs, to a more stable technology suitable for professional applications such as business.

"VoIP is exploding," Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect has said: "We want to enable the software richness on the PC to connect out to traditional PBXes."

The company has formed tie-ups with AT&T, Amdocs and Sylantro Systems to work on various VoIP systems. In August it acquired Teleo, a developer of services and technology that allow users to make and receive voice phone calls on their PCs via the Internet. A month later Microsoft said it planned to work with Qwest Communications to provide VoIP services to SMBs.

Gupta's gumption

Media-streams.com will become part of Microsoft's real time collaboration business group, which is led by Microsoft corporate vice president Anoop Gupta.

Microsoft will continue to offer media-streams.com's software on a stand-alone basis and existing customers should see no immediate impact from the acquisition.