Windows Live MessengerMicrosoft have today announced the end Windows Live Messenger in early 2013, encouraging all active users to move to Skype.

Although the news has been widely expected, the speed of the shutdown is surprising.

Microsoft purchased Skype for $8.5bn 18 months ago and since then has been working to integrate the service more closely with its own products. Todays announcement demonstrates their commitment to persuade users that Skype is more than a voice/video calling service.

At its peak MSN Messenger, later to be rebranded Windows Live Messenger in 1998, had 300+ million users however today this number is around 100 million active monthly users.  Microsoft will be hoping to persuade Messenger fans to move and increase the 280 million Skype users.

Messenger users can immediately transition to Skype assuming they have version 6.0 or above, and sign in with their Microsoft ID.

Interestingly Microsoft say they will continue to offer Messenger in mainland China and have no plans to withdraw it -- Skype is currently illegal in China.

Also today, Skype announced the availability of Skype prepaid vouchers for £10 and £20, available from retail outlets for the first time.

UPDATE: 15 March 2013 is confirmed as the final day for Messenger

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