By Max Clarke

Skype have announced their intention to purchase group messenger application, GroupMe in what has been described as a direct challenge to the popular BlackBerry messaging service.

The small startup with just 20 employees is to be purchased for a rumoured $80 million, though the company will effectively operate as an independent entity within Skype until further notice.

The popularity of BlackBerry messenger has let to a host of imitations and aggressive purchases in order to narrow the lead set by the Canadian smartphone manufacturer. It was for this reason that analysts believe" rel="nofollow">Microsoft decided to acquire Skype.

“We think the mobile group messaging space is very important,” Tony Bates, Skype’s Chief Executive, in a statement reported in eWeek Europe. “It means furthering the breaking down of barriers to global communications.”

The deal comes soon after the announcement of Facebook’s new messenger app for smartphones, and has also been touted as another nail in the coffin of the SMS.

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