Skype: It's Business Time
Describing its long-term financial outlook to analysts last week, eBay (EBAY) said it expects Skype to more than double its revenue to over $1 billion by 2011. Quite a claim to make about an Internet telephony business for which the company has taken some pretty nasty write-downs, a business that back in January eBay seemed to be looking to divest. But apparently, eBay sees quite a bit of promise in Skype’s new voice-over-IP service for businesses. Launching in beta today, Skype for SIP for Business allows companies to make domestic and international Skype calls from their corporate telephone systems rather than their PCs. Initially, the company will charge about 2.1 cents per minute for calls to cellphones and fixed lines, but Skype-to-Skype calls will be free. That’s a potentially compelling proposition for business customers looking to make low-cost calls to fixed lines and mobile phones around the world.
“If you’re selling something or running a campaign–if you want to do that in the traditional world, then you would set up an 800 number, for example,” Stefan Oberg, the head of Skype’s business division, told ZDnet. “But 800 numbers are local to a country. So if you’re an international business, you have to set up 800 numbers in many countries. Now a company can have a button on their webpage or refer to Skype in an ad, and it’s like a virtual, global 800 number.”
As I said, a compelling proposition. But will enough companies take Skype up on it to really cause a significant increase in revenue? Particularly in a market as competitive as business communications? A market in which traditional phone companies are already peddling their own VOIP offerings?