Skype in the Crosshairs of both Google and Facebook

It was Charlie Brown who said “In all this world, there is no heavier burden than a great potential!” and the guys at Skype sure know how this feels.

Bought by eBay back in 2005 for $4.1 billion Skype was intended to supply an additional layer of connectivity to the eBay business model linking sellers and buyers through voice as well as email and eBay messages.

The experiment did not work out. eBay failed to integrated Skype into its business model and just three years later it sold 65% of its share of the company for $2.75 billion. In that time Skype has focused on service improvements and growth with hundreds of thousands of new users each week and a total membership number which at 505 million comfortably competes with Facebook’s.

The rumour mill, lately, has been busy. Skype which has held back from an IPO, waiting for the markets to pick up as the global crisis recedes is now apparently on the table again, sitting between two global rivals: Google and Facebook.

Google’s loosening of its purse strings, recently has only served to fuel speculation that the search giant is looking at Skype as a means of depriving Facebook rival from yet one more, addictive, social interaction tool.

Facebook, obviously, is looking at a means of person-to-person communication on its website which will be better than the famously buggy Facebook chat and more personal than Facebook messaging. Skype, for Facebook at least, seems to be a good fit. Google’s interest is harder to explain as Google already has the One Voice service in operation and seems to have no problems with server capacity offering voice communication as well as reliable chat through its Gmail accounts.

Business is a funny game. Strategy often requires not just developing new ‘weapons’ but stopping competitors from acquiring the weapons they need in order to do better battle with you. In this light a Google purchase makes a lot of sense and, in the bargain, Google will gain additional technology which includes the creation of a global network without the need for a centralized server service.

At the moment all this is speculation. Skype management have confirmed some exploratory talks with Facebook and Google and a tentative IPO date which is expected will net the company a further $1 billion. Facebook management are keeping quiet as does the Google team. Skype here is incidental, this is a play that is rapidly developing into a shootout at OK Coral between two of the biggest presences on the web. The first one to blink will have given up the advantage and may lose the opportunity of delivering a serious blow to its opponent.

via technorati


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