Earlier this week I was part of a group of bloggers who were briefed after the journalists were informed about the upcoming--no official date-release of the next phase of the Diallpad acquisitions integration into Yahoo Messenger and what it means.
Yesterday I received a few calls about this from reporters sniffing around. How they knew I was one of the chosen to be informed is anyone's guess, but I think it's safe to say I'm making it onto a lot of companies short lists these days for being informed earlier.
So while there seems to be this almost tit-for-tat game of cat and mouse being played out in the press of late with embargoes or the breaking of the embargoes one has to give Yahoo PR team credit for being ready for the game (or fueling it) in case someone broke ranks. So here we are, well informed VoIP bloggers who have the facts and honor the request to keep quiet until...well, until someone doesn't.
Yesterday the gloves came off as word was "leaking" out that some publication, reportedly NewsWeek was going to jump the embargo. In fact, PC Magazine did break ranks, running the story the day after we were being briefed, possibly putting it to bed in the editorial engine while we were being served up tasty news items over dinner but much better wine than Level3 served in Boston a few months back, a fact the Yahoo PR folks were well aware of :-).>
Late yesterday I was called by a reporter I respect greatly from the San Jose Mercury News, Michael Bazeley. He's fair, honest and wants the implications, not a rehashing of the press briefing. He already had been briefed and wanted to get some outside viewpoints. That's where I came into the story. It was time to give my opinion. And it's here in today's Mercury News. Three or four points he made that related to my being quoted I'll elaborate on:
VoIP consultant Andy Abramson said that Yahoo's deep pockets allow it to force Skype into a price war.
Yahoo has very serious relationships with multiple carriers, telco partners and tons of inbound traffic that create a war chest of credits. I have discussed this point now twice with AOL's Voice Team leadership as they too are in a position to wage price war based on OPM (other people's money) as it's the nature of the Internet. Get lots of inbound traffic because your a destination and have your own "network" and you have lots of credit. For PC-to-PC calling on net you can leverage a lot. Terminate via the Dialpad deals already in place and Yahoo takes a 1+1 = lots more approach that Skype can't offer. They don't have the other assets in place (yet).
`Yahoo can toy with Skype,'' said Abramson, chief executive of Comunicano.
Abramson said Yahoo has another advantage -- the ability to integrate voice across many other parts of its vast network, from e-mail to music and gaming.
``Yahoo has all those community and content assets to lay into the voice thing,'' he said.
First Yahoo is more of a progressive marketer than eBay. Yahoo has more content, greater service offerings and many more promotional partners. Their IM client also has lots more users on a daily basis and Yahoo Messenger is Enterprise friendly already. Skype isn't. It will also take eBay 12-24 months to forge the kind of relationships Yahoo has in place today. Between price wars and costs to ramp up it may also crater the projected earnout on the Skype deal. But what's a few billion between friends, right.
Directly related to this are Yahoo's other assets-Groups, Music, Video, Messaging, Email, 360, Photos and More. Many are free services that convert to paying service offerings for Voice. They are all platforms Skype and eBay don't have so while Henry Gomez can tell me about the eBay community approach as a basis for what ebay will do with and for Skype (and he's right on) Yahoo is already there in spades, trumping eBay in many directions.
What Skype will need to license (at a premium cost) Yahoo already has promotional rights to and can leverage those rights starting now. Yahoo's Entertainment Group in L.A. is very savvy and as they expand their Hollywood content asset rights, the ability to blend them in to new voice service offerings are also something Skype doesn't have and will have to spend time to acquire, if they want to match Yahoo stride for stride.
Side note--Already it was disclosed to me recently on a few occasions that there are copies of the Skype-eBay earnout agreement floating around Silicon Valley. The details, in the hands of a competitor are the kinds of things that make a GM/VP or CEO nervous. Why? Once you know what is needed to be achieved all you have to do as the competition is lower price and put pressure on the acquiring company. With Bazeley's comment about prices being lower than Skype for Yahoo's outbound calls, that puts pressure on Skype/eBay which doesn't have the network partners Yahoo has. Since all costs expended to grow the business may likely impact earnout, not just gross dollars (I am guessing on this) if you're Meg Whitman this morning and waking up reading the Bazeley column and this post, your going "gulp" and asking your new Skype team for an action plan out of the SWOT analysis they would have done pre-Skype acquisition (or should have to anticipate this move). Don't count eBay out yet folks, just know they've been hit with a serious sucker punch on the pricing schemes Yahoo has.
On the last point on the above series of quotes on the use of the phrase voice thing. Client David Beckemeyer has been calling Voice a "thing" not a product or a service for some time. Strides like what Yahoo is making and their upcoming direction supports his PhoneGnome model more and more, providing validation of what he's doing. With Yahoo's impending move it's also going to be a race for applications and features, not price only, that's a game of corporate brinksmanship being played out just like this so called embargo game.
But Abramson said the younger generation of Internet users are rapidly becoming accustomed to Internet phone calling. And Yahoo will able to use its popular Web site to promote the service.
More and more people are communicating using data first devices. RIMs, Pocket PC's, Cellphones, Video Game devices. Those are data first. Voice Second. Part of Voice 2.0 is all about marrying and crossing data first behavior into Voice supported communications, not the other way around. And Yahoo's got a very good handle on that. Perhaps the best of the giants, followed by AOL and MSN. Google's still figuring it out and Skype ebay is still about replacing the phone company with a PC. Sorry, but it's not the same.
Oh, and then there's this one other BIG aspect of what Yahoo has to offer. It's the already existing last mile customer base of DSL subscribers from Verizon and AT&T. Both of those companies already terminate calls on phones. Down the road Yahoo can manage where calls end up and Yahoo could help market CallVantage and VoiceWing for the Voice 1.0 crowd.
Are we at game, set, and match yet in the Voice wars yet? No. But Yahoo apparently by all accounts has made moves that says "check-mate" to the competition this week.
Yahoo is about experience so I'm betting that a beta comes out really soon around their new Voice platform, but what we see won't be the last of what they do. There's a lot more behind their new platform than just cheap calling and using a PC to do that. But that's for another post, on another day because being first only matters in championship play. For me it's about being right and part of the game. As a client likes to say to his sales troops, do more of better and the victory stripes will always be awarded to you. For me it's about keeping you better informed. So expect more from Yahoo as their newly expanded team is not sitting back and if I was another PC-to PC player in a neighboring town, I'd be looking in the rear view mirror. Not for Yahoo, they're already out in front in more areas. I'd be checking to see if my boss was running up and asking "what did we do to get into this position, and what do we do now?"
Now back to the embargo thing. Could I have broken the embargo on Monday night after dinner? Sure. Could I have broken the Skype 2.0 one last week? Yes again. Does it matter that the news comes out on Wednesday instead of when Yahoo wanted it to later in the week or month? Only if your Yahoo and the software's not ready for users who want it. Oh wait. We're now in the consumer/retail VoIP game and I don't think Brad Garlinghouse and his team want to be in the Vaporware business. At least he better not as that's not Yahoo's stock and trade. My guess is Yahoo's ready and the world is waiting, watching and gearing up for Voice 3.0