Skype Grows and Aims for the Enterprise

Carl Weinschenk

Skype, the highest-profile pureplay VoIP provider, is having a surprisingly good time. While announcing the availability of Skype 4.0, the company said it now has e 405 million users. The Industry Standard reports that it is adding a hefty 380,000 users per day. Recently, the company hit a milestone: at one point in time, which was not identified, 15 million people used the service simultaneously. Perhaps most intriguingly, almost one-third of users are Skyping for business purposes.


Very late last year, I wrote a story-it wasn't posted until Jan. 2-on the prospects for mobile VoIP for business users. Skype for business director Ian Robin told me that one-third of the then 370 million registered Skype users were folks doing business. One-third of these-one-ninth of the 370 million, or a bit more than 40 million people-were mobile business users. Robin clearly said that Skype had high hopes for the enterprise, and was working with one IP PBX vendor, Asterisk. More initiatives aimed at driving Skype deeper into the enterprise were to be expected, Robin told me.


That's Skype's version. Not surprisingly, not everyone is thrilled with the Skype move into the enterprise. NTA Monitor, an organization based in the UK, sees danger:


"The significant increase in the use of VoIP, particularly for organisations and businesses with regional or international networks, reflects the undoubted business benefits it brings. However, companies that succumb to the temptation for the seemingly 'quick-fix', lower set-up costs and reduced international phone bills of consumer solutions such as Skype, may achieve short-term gain but undoubtedly long-term pain"

NTA says that the security of consumer services-Skype and others -- is questionable in a number of dimensions. NTA Monitor technical director Roy Hills says Skype can't be integrated into a corporate infrastructure-something with which Robin would no doubt disagree-and therefore leads to costly platform changeouts later.


According to this NewsFactor piece, Skype 4.0 is said by the company to be the most important update it has ever released. The writer begins by describing cosmetic changes that will only be of importance to people who are staunch Skype advocates. He then gets into the more significant changes, which involve the platform's video capabilities. The video is terrific, the writer says, and uses so little bandwidth that the good quality carries to a higher number of broadband connections. The audio quality always has been terrific, he says. The drawback is that the video is only available in a caller-to-caller format. Other services -- such as Oovoo, SightSpeed and Apple's iChat -- support participants in multiple locations.


One of the strangest deals of the past few years-and there are plenty to go choose from-was eBay's purchase of Skype for $2.6 billion in 2005. Ever since, there have been periodic rumblings that eBay is looking to offload the company. eWEEK presents possible suitors, as suggested by analysts. The writer discounts one often-mentioned name, Google, because Google Talk seems set to make an acquisition unnecessary. Microsoft is mentioned by another analyst, and the writer thinks that that makes more sense. A third potential landing buyer is Yahoo.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 10, 2009 7:47 AM KJAL KJAL  says:

One third of one third is one ninth not one sixth.

Feb 11, 2009 12:24 PM Pat Kelly Pat Kelly  says:

Skype partners such as OnState - - have been bringing Skype into core business processes, both at the SMB, as well as the enterprise-level.  Skype is serving to accelerate the move from hardware to software in the telecom space.

Feb 12, 2009 2:12 AM Pat Kelly Pat Kelly  says: in response to Carl Weinschenk

Carl  -- with all due respect, we find that Skype can be part of a comprehensive UC deployment.  The APIs exposed by Skype allow our firm to turn Skype in to a "PBX" and Call Center solution.  There is no need to buy IP-PBX systems.  If you think of Skype in the context of cloud-computing, then you begin to see a world where there is no need for traditional IP-voice systems.  This is emerging from Microsoft, Google and Adobe as well - communications is a commodity item increasingly embedded in other applications.  So in the end, the discussion isn't so much about Skype, but a move from hardware to software-only solutions, which increasingly are "cloud-based."

In terms of other integration options, in our case we have integrated Skype with Salesforce and Google Apps.

Feb 12, 2009 2:17 AM Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk  says: in response to Pat Kelly

Thanks for the great input, Pat. My questions are whether many companies are will and have the expertise to use Skype as their UC/voice platform at this point. It sounds like you and your organization are on the cutting edge. There also is the issue of not stranding investments in PBXes/IP PBXes that still have value--especially in the case of IP PBXes, which probably are newer. I think the challenge of Skype isn't making the approach you suggest possible. It's making it popular.

Feb 12, 2009 12:11 PM Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk  says: in response to KJAL

Thanks, KJAL, we fixed the error. Editors often are mathematically challenged, but that was pushing it. I find it intriguing that Skype is so successful, but that the assumption by just about everyone-including apparently eBay-is that it will be sold. Maybe that will change with the current economic conditions. Thanks again

Feb 12, 2009 12:34 PM Ken Hardin Ken Hardin  says: in response to Carl Weinschenk

Carl -- on a 1-10 continuum of encompassing Unified Communication, how would you rate Skype at this point? Could it be a low-cost component of a patchwork solution, or is it a fairly free-standing solution with little integration opportunities?

Feb 12, 2009 12:39 PM Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk  says: in response to Ken Hardin

That's a great question, Ken. I would say it is a five, but that it has higher aspirations to embed itself deeper within the enterprise. That will take continued efforts to make deals with IP PBX makers and the like. It also has to deal with security issues to reassure IT folks and, most of all, confront the perception that it is a consumer-only play.


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