Microsoft has announced it is discontinuing its Live Messenger service and will be integrating it with the internet telephone service Skype.

Tuesday’s news was not a surprise considering the company had already bought up the popular VoIP service last spring.

The news first came through Skype’s CEO Tony Bates who said that Messenger will be retired in all countries in the first quarter of 2013, except in mainland China where Messenger will still be available.

"We want to focus our efforts on making things simpler for our users while continuously improving the overall experience," wrote Bates in a blog post.

What is Skype?

Launched in 2003, Skype allows users to talk to each other via voice, text or video with another user, anywhere in the world, over the internet. It is typically used on personal computers but updated versions permit the service over televisions equipped with internet access, and, most importantly, smartphones.

The basic model is free, but users willing to pay are granted extra abilities, such as being able to call telephones.

Windows Live Messenger launched in 1999 with a text messaging system. Eventually, it added photo delivery, video calls and games.

Messenger has about 100 million users while Skype boasts about 663 million users worldwide who make voice and video calls over the internet. The amount of calling on Skype's network totalled 207 billion minutes last year, according to regulatory documents.

Users of both services will be able to merge their accounts and contact list – only those who use the Microsoft service will be required to make the transition.

The migration to Skype is helped by the fact the service offers broader support for all platforms including Android tablets and iPad, video well as calling landlines and mobile phones. An average of about 8.8 million customers per month pay to use Skype services.

Skype users can also share screens, video call with friends on Facebook in addition to making group video calls.

In October, Skype began testing ways for users to sign in using their Windows Live account.

Messenger users are being asked to download Skype 6.0.