Category Archives : Skype

Cisco seek restrictions on Microsoft Skype Integration 1

Today Cisco asked the European Commission to reconsider their recommendation that the purchase of Skype be approved without restriction.  Cisco has specifically asked that Skype video conferencing be ‘open’ and prevent a Lync/Skype lock-in.  This is fascinating stuff on several levels:

Cisco and Microsoft have many ties and joint working agreements (as the Cisco blog mentions) and for Cisco to officially complain will almost certainly sour those relationships.  I thought the working relationship had improved over the past 12 months but I’d assume this will be a set back.

Cisco might like to think they are a competitor to Microsoft and mention them in a great deal of their market information, where I don’t really see the same focus on Cisco as a competitor within the wider Microsoft machine.  Sure the MS UC teams talk about Cisco but outside of Lync I just don’t see the same recognition of Cisco.  You always hear Microsoft guys whisper about teams being hauled in front of Balmer for losing a deal to Google, I’ve never heard of a similar fate for losing to Cisco.  Maybe by poking the big Balmer bear on a key acquisition Cisco might get more competitive focus within Microsoft.

And my thoughts on the substance of the request.  I’m in no doubt that Lync/Skype integration would prove a popular selling point for Lync (if MS ever officially announce such a thing) just as the Cisco acquisition of Tandberg proved popular, but neither purchase creates a market distortion:

Microsoft’s plans to integrate Skype exclusively with its Lync Enterprise Communications Platform could lock-in businesses who want to reach Skype’s 700 million account holders to a Microsoft-only platform.

This is patently absurd.  If a business wishes to reach the 700 million account holders it downloads Skype for free on any platform they choose and contacts a user directly from Skype without any need for Lync.  Far more likely in fact is that a company can contact a Skype user via their corporate Facebook account – how is this possibly locking anyone into a Microsoft platform?

In addition the various regulators rightly highlighted that internet platforms can quickly dissipate, consumers are not locked into Skype.  Apple and Google already have similar products, Twitter or Linkedin if they so wished could easily deploy a video platform – Vidyo I’m sure would be more than willing to spin something up for either platform.

Then I think there is the technical legal point that Cisco’s own blog post highlights.  Cisco state that the current industry today lacks interoperability.  They are dead right but if that is the case how can the EC justify that a merger of two systems, one of which is already closed, create any further industry degradation?  If the EC forces MS to open Skype then Microsoft lawyers will rightly demand that all other video systems are forced to be open and interoperate due to legal precedence.  Sony, Wii and Xbox, Apple’s Facetime, Google hangouts would all be forced to interoperate.  Can I use Google hangouts to join a Cisco Telehealth VC session today ?  The courts simply could not enforce such a ruling.

I just don’t understand why Cisco have done this, it makes them look desperate, it probably damages working relationships, I’d be amazed if their appeal stands any weight and they might just have woken up the Microsoft machine.  Cisco stepped away from the network space with PostPath and Flip and lost billions.  Focus on your own strategy and products rather than making ill conceived requests.

Skype: Lync’s USP?

I’ve written before that I can see why Microsoft bought Skype at such a high valuation and it has to be based on selling advertising to the billions of potential Skype clients in the future.  What I didn’t fully appreciate at the time is the potential benefit it could have for Lync.  After speaking with end users over the past couple of weeks I’ve found an increasing number of them asking me about the Skype/Lync integration.

So why do I think Skype could be a USP for Lync?

Let me start with a perceived problem: Lync is an extremely powerful and stable UC platform with access to millions of Microsoft desktops yet for all the capability and large Microsoft sales and marketing muscle I don’t think Lync’s potential has been fully taken by Enterprise customers yet.  While there are several reasons for this Skype can help change in a couple of different ways:

  1. I often think that Microsoft and partners have difficulty explaining what Lync is and can do within an Enterprise.  Often saying it’s the corporate Skype is a good start and then gives you space to explain the full Lync capabilities.  In addition Lync advocates can now explain how Skype and Lync fit together within a UC strategy.
  2. Understanding how Skype and Lync fit together really starts to open up the larger opportunities.  When Microsoft integrate Skype and Lync, Lync will be the prime UC technology that works seamlessly and securely with over a billion potential users/customers.  I’ve already had several discussions within the Pharma/Healthcare industry that wish to exploit this type of connectivity:
  • Sales Rep with Lync being able to share IM/voice/video and content with Doctors without having to visit
  • Scientists within Pharma organisations being able to contact students and lecturers within Universities
  • R+D trial leaders being able to contact patients who are taking part in clinical studies

I’m sure every industry could create multiple use cases.  You may also be asking: why couldn’t the Pharma/Heathcare companies just deploy Skype now rather having to deploy Lync?  Most large organisations block Skype due to security concerns and Skype doesn’t sit well with regulatory requirements such as tracking and archiving.

Providing Lync with Skype integration an IT department is enabling significant business value within a controlled and secure communication environment that can meet any regulatory requirements.  Doesn’t that sound like a USP for Lync?

Skype Rumours: Facebook, Google and Microsoft… 1

My first question reading this list was – why no telco?  Skype generate almost all of their income from PSTN with circa 8 million subscribers paying an average of $97 per year for PSTN access.  Wouldn’t it be a natural fit for a telco with global ambitions (easy answer to this – there are no global telcos) or at least a defensive play against a loss of revenue as users shift from PSTN to calling over the internet?  Then I took a look at the figures and realised the telco element of Skype is a complete red herring.  It is user numbers and specifically user attention that Facebook and Google want so they can do what they do best – serve ads to a captive audience.

Take a look at a couple of rough comparisons:

Facebook – 500 million users with 700 billion minutes per month of time spent on the site (official facebook site) – market value currently talked of $50billion

Youtube – 2 billion views a day (viral blog) which on my assumption of an average of 2 minutes per view could be getting on for 120 billion minutes per month - its hard to know what value Google put on youtube now

Twitter – reports of 200 million users with which could mean up to 5 billion (scaling up on the digital buzz blog) requests to Twitter each day and a possible market valuation of $7billion

Now compare the above numbers to Skype who reportedly have over 500 million with an average of 145 million users logged in on a monthly basis (techcrunch).  While the reported numbers of voice and video of 207 billion per year is much smaller that Facebook, Twitter or Youtube the user must be logged into the Skype application for much longer.

Such a weight of user number and the length of time a user logs in gives a specialist ad serving organisation like Facebook or Google the ideal opportunity to monetize Skype.  Skype for Business and Skype Out are minority business interests and the suitors of Skype know it, I just wonder if Silver Lake truly appreciate that it currently holds one of the few internet businesses with the scale and relevance to match the marque names of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube that if sold correctly could serve billions of dollars of ads to users on a global basis.

Skype Adding 350 Jobs

As they move into their new Palo Alto offices Skype have some office space to fill. They’ve released a quick video promoting what a great place to work Skype is.

Taking a quick look at the career page on Skype there are 83 positions currently open with the standard mix of Product, Engineering and Back Office vacancies. I didn’t see any Skype Business positions but I did only give it a quick skim. I’ll take a look back in a couple of weeks to see if there are more open positions and if Skype Business has any positions.

Avaya add Skype trunks out of the box

Have Avaya just become relevant again?  Since Skype and Avaya have shared common ownership it has been speculated that the two companies would create a deeper technical and commercial parternship.  While it may have taken longer than necessary; this week Avaya and Skype made the announcement that  they would share technology and Skype trunks would be pre-loaded onto Avaya systems in North America.

“Avaya and Skype have been working along parallel paths to offer, innovative, scalable, low cost, SIP-based communications to our respective markets,” said Alan Baratz, senior vice president, Avaya and president, Avaya Global Communications Solutions. “Now, the two companies will work together, striving to improve collaboration and customer service by federating Avaya and Skype solutions for a common user experience that delivers unique benefits for businesses and their customers who are Skype users.”

“Our relationship with Avaya is expected to expand the footprint for Skype Connect into more enterprises in the U.S. market, while allowing us to help Avaya’s customers benefit from Skype’s cost savings and access to Skype’s global user base,” said David Gurlé, vice president and general manager of Skype for Business. “We believe our integrated solution in the second half of 2011 is expected to offer the benefits of Skype to a growing number of businesses and open up new ways for people to communicate and collaborate.”

Many partnerships often end in tears but this one has potential to add value to both sides.  Skype have the software and a brand that represents internet telephony and video but little traction in the business market or channel partners.  Avaya has the business market and channel but needs innovative software to combat the likes of Cisco and Microsoft.  Combining the two offers a genuine market opportunity.  If Avaya can pull through their customer base and deploy Skype trunks and then implement the Skype client software as their collaboration offer they have a chance.

There are many questions however, how can Avaya monetize Skype, how will they be able to pull through the Skype brand with the traditional PBX offer?  If they find a way will other vendors be able to take advantage by integrating Skype into their product range.  Will Avaya really push Skype as their collaboration software and effectively mothball their own software?  Lots of questions but at least I can see a way forward for Avaya with this partnership.

Why Google should buy Skype

It is clear that Google would like to compete with Skype with their Google Voice product.  I’m just not sure trying to grow Google Voice organically will work.  The closest analogy I can think of is very quick and clear cut competition between Google Video and Youtube, which eventually led to the acquisition of Youtube by Google.

  • Google tried with Google Video but realised that Youtube’s brand had too much of a lead
  • Google Search/Account id allowed Google a unique chance to monetise Youtube
  • Youtube is a massive web property, for Google not to have control could be a threat in the future

I believe all three of the above reasons can be applied to a Google purchase of Skype.  While Google Voice is a good product I think Skype has too much of a brand lead for Gvoice to ever take over. To monetise Skype Google could push Skype into their Google accounts and search results while inserting ad words into Skype calls.  They could easily keep the Google Voice brand for their Enterprise apps and keep the Skype brand for consumers.

Imagine a Skype/Youtube and Google TV combination, which can be transferred to a desktop and mobile phone platform.

Cisco and Skype? 2

Rumours persist that Cisco are looking into buying Skype.  I’d be very interested to understand why Cisco would wish to buy Skype.  Is it for their consumer user base, IP or potential revenue streams?

I personally don’t see the fit, unlike the excellent recent aquisition of Tandberg.  Is it a defensive move to prevent voice minutes leeking away from Cisco’s business CUCM product range or is it a pure consumer play?