Everyone is wondering if Skype is for sale? Well the "strategic alternatives" eBay took when they started to sort out who would be running the business now has passed with a series of hires from Motorola, Sun and a former biz dev exec as Chief Strategy Officer. They've also hired away the PR/Comms lead from Google, at a time when Google likely needed him most. Lastly, for tax and secrecy reasons they've moved the base of operations over to Luxembourg.
I'd say they are in plotting mode, and likely the folks at McKinsey, Bain and a few other consulting giants have all been in the eBay offices regularly, providing all kinds of scenarios, feedback, insight and all else that they offer. The headhunters have all done their jobs, and now the ranks are being combed for dead weight while the new hires start to think about what they can do to keep changing the world of voice, video and communications. Translation--expect some people to be reassigned, other to be cut at Skype soon but also I expect them to hire more as well to help shore up areas that need it. I mean, with over 300 engineers, and 350 or so folks in the tech side of the business not everyone is a front line player.
But all this is just window dressing or as some would say, like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic because even with new blood, Skype will meander on and deliver what it has since it started. A way for people to simply talk for free. So while the world talks about the potential next sale, let's really ask ourselves this. Does it matter who owns Skype?
As a stand alone venture pre-purchase by eBay Skype was already on a course of taking minutes away from the traditional telcos. What no one realized is they also were taking people away from IM services like AOL and Yahoo Messenger here in the USA and elsewhere. As a matter of fact, 90 percent of my IM traffic now runs over Skype when I'm in front of a Mac or a PC, while on Mobile it runs over Palringo or Blackberry Messenger. Why? Because that's where my friends are. That often leads to a voice call and sometimes, even a video call.
There's also a lot of noise is out there about Google buying Skype. Skype is a pure play at free and a pay service for "premium" features like Skype In and Out. Google's model is all about serving up ads. But yet, in Google Talk you don't see any ads, and Skype's proprietary algorithms seem to be as anti-Google as one could get. Besides, Google has enough voice and video pieces to stitch together on their own, and Skype would be a tough one to mix into the pattern.
So I view things a bit differently. Skype will become a stand alone entity within eBay and eBay becomes like GE with its core assets.
Already there's lots of discontent that even PayPal hasn't been fully integrated into eBay, but the issues there are more eBay, than PayPal which is nothing but really a transaction engine and in reality it only does one thing well. On the other hand, Skype is a multifaceted communications platform that has already taken away minutes, IM's, eyeballs and soon video from everyone else. Once they add multi-party video conferencing, the need for all other platforms pretty much goes away. Skype works and works very well. So what if it's not SIP. That piece of the puzzle, a SIP to Skype gateway is nothing more than some boxes and some software. But where Skype isn't is in mobile, and there they will find inventive ways to partner, as they have with client Boingo. Remember, Skype works best on OPI, other people's infrastructure so any of the infrastructure carriers buying it would have to determine just what the cost of running Skype is. With all the agreements they have with their peering partners, the cost of handing off traffic would quickly bring down the value because Skype works best without being part of the old telco world's game. That rules them out.
Next would be Cisco.......hmmmm.....They can afford it. They have indicated they want to do more in video, and Skype usage drives more sales of routers, but Cisco is just dabbling in consumer and Skype isn't a boxed service....so while of all the companies in the world who could buy it and have it benefit, that's one longshot too......
CNET's Maggie Reardon thinks Microsoft would be a likely suitor. Given how many different ways they do voice now, what would one more flavor be? I think not now, as Microsoft is all about MSFT software and Skype is anything but that through and through.
So like I said, does it really matter? As long as Skype operates, many of us will simply "Just Use It."