Several news items and rumors that have surfaced recently either directly or indirectly involve Skype. The bigger picture is that the acceptance of the service by enterprise vendors-and, by extension, their clients-suggests that the line between services aimed at consumers and businesses is rapidly fading.
The increasing capabilities of broadband networks and the mechanisms that enable higher-quality services to be provided over them are opening the gates to Skype. Skype is an Internet-delivered product; as the Internet gets better, the range of companies able and willing to use it broadens and deepens.
Skype this week said that is embarking on a two-phase cooperative project with Avaya, a company synonymous with business telecommunications products. The first phase, set to debut in October, will enable the equipment vendor's customers to make inexpensive or free calls via Skype Connect. The second phase, due in the middle of 2011, will see a far deeper integration with Skype's unified communications and collaboration tools.
On another front, there are reports that Skype and Facebook are on the verge of a deal. The details are sketchy, but one thing is for certain: The deal would be big. InformationWeek points out that Skype has almost 600 million users and Facebook about 500 million. Clearly, a federation between the two would embrace a lot of business calling, and not just by small companies.
Clearly, a lot is going on for Skype, including an initial public offering. Therefore, it's not surprising that the company is sprucing up its channel. Computer Reseller News provides details of the plans, which were released at the beginning of September. The vital information is at the beginning of the story, where it should be. The key is that the target, again, is beyond the consumer segment:
The goal, according to Skype, is not to resell the Skype platform through the channel-most of Skype's services, such as Skype-to-Skype calling are free and paid services are still bought directly from Skype. Rather, Skype hopes to create a network of partners who can incorporate Skype into networking and infrastructure solutions for interested customers.
Cisco, meanwhile, is working in the other direction and heading toward the consumer sector. Kara Swisher at All Things Digital said that Cisco is on the point of introducing a home telepresence system with Comcast and Verizon. The service would be available for $200 or $500, depending on the level of subsidization by the carrier. That, presumably, would be tied to the length of the agreement.
A few years ago, the clear demarcations between consumer and corporate equipment-mostly on the mobile side-began to fade as folks brought their feature phones and early smartphones to work and BlackBerry started courting consumers more assiduously. The sudden popularity of Skye, with its pronounced consumer lineage, is clear evidence that the line separating the two worlds now is fading on the services side.