Fresh off its sale by eBay to a private equity firm, Skype is making big plans for the business market. The provider of Internet communications services-mostly over personal computers for non-business purposes-is looking to make serious inroads in the business space, starting with an offering of corporate subscription packages this fall. The packages will include tools for IT managers to incorporate Skype into their existing telecommunications and IT infrastructure and a line of Skype-enabled televisions, which the company hopes corporate customers will use in their conference rooms.
That's an interesting strategy for Skype, which runs on an almost-free-to-use model. Service upgrades and Skype 'credits'-in which users pay a fee of 2.1 cents to use Skype to call landline and mobile phones-generated more than $700 million for the company last year, and that's just the consumer space. Imagine what penetration into the business market could mean for Skype financially.
The question, however, is whether Skype is ready for corporate primetime. On its site, Skype points out that it does not support 911 and other emergency calling services and should not be used as a person's primary phone service. Rather, Skype can be used as a complementary service.
Also, the quality of service with Skype calls may not be as high as landline or even other IP-based calls, leading to latency issues or dropped packets. Of course, that has everything to do with the bandwidth limitations of the corporate network, but would a company want to risk its image on the possibility of a less-than-optimal calling experience with its clients?
Skype, however, could be used as part of a unified communications bundle. The instant messaging application and PC videoconferencing applications, in the right setting, could prove useful for a company looking to increase its communications offerings while on a shoestring budget. And the brand-new Skype Manager, an online portal that lets IT administrators oversee Skype users by department, purchase credits and view reports on Skype usage and costs company-wide, will help companies better manage their telecom costs.
Skype has the potential to penetrate the corporate space if it doesn't shoot for the moon. By billing itself as a complementary communications offering, the company just might make its mark in the corporate world-and make a killing in the process.
Of course, none of this is lost on Google, which just moved to acquire Global IP Solutions (GIPS) as part of a plan to challenge Skype on all fronts.