Will Skype recover?

In: Companies / 6 comments

6 Jul 2009

I have always thought that Skype being purchased by eBay was really stupid. The two companies had nothing in common and after two years from the purchase, it was all visible when eBay announced (here you have the romanticized story) that they paid too much. Then they restructured internally, redesigned the business, launched super products, announced a listing on the stock market for next year…Will they actually recover?

I am one of the fools who made fun of Niklas (Zennstrom – the founder of Skype) when he was asking investment funds for two million Euros: “Give me two million and I will give you the biggest telecom company in the world” – Ouch, everyone said, the guy is crazy.
I said the same thing, although I had known him from the times he built a great music exchange software from Kazaa (the precursor of torrents). The Kazaa technology was very interesting: you have a log-in server (the provider’s only server in fact) and a desktop application that, once installed on computer X, if told to communicate with computer Y, it can communicate directly (synchronously, as the guys at Skype say), without going through the provider’s server, finding the optimal path by using the applications of those logged in, as proxies. After setting up the technology (I repeat, two great advantages: a. They didn’t need their own infrastructure and b. The quality of the communication was significantly better than the alternatives), the guy gave up Kazaa (technology which was almost bordering on the illegal…) and used that technology for Skype. He sold it in 4 years to eBay for approx. Eur2B.

Great, but it’s just the eBay didn’t know what to do with this business. I don’t even want to think what would have happened if a company such as Google had bought Skype… now we would probably talk only about Skype…

Now, after 3 years during which they stood still (in our business this means they regressed) things are changing. Partially for the better, partially for the worse: The bad part is that they complicated the application. I installed version 4 last month and the degree of simplicity that I used to love now disappeared. It’s not nice to navigate, although many new features are useful. It eats up resources, it’s not predictable anymore. The good part is that they finally understood where they needed to arrive: although they still introduce themselves as software producers, they are moving in the initial direction – telecom: they started making contracts with mobile phone services providers to offer Skype for free. Check this out: www.three.co.uk . A pilot business concept that went extremely well in the UK and that I understand they’ll franchise in other countries: you buy the phone and you have free calls to Skype for life (you pay if you call other mobile numbers, of course). If the guys move well, I can see us all in two years buying such mobile phones, getting Skype accounts and talking for free (anyway, those of us under a certain age). Otherwise, I see that they already have products for SMB to completely replace the telephone exchange and the service of the telecom provider. You only have to buy a telephone line and you are completely connected to the world (Cisco, beware…).

It’s a company worth watching and, depending on how they manage their IPO in this world of crises, their shares may also be worth buying…

(English version by Teodora Popescu)

Original Romanian version

Isi va reveni Skype?

Am fost intotdeauna de parere ca achizitia lui Skype de catre Ebay a fost o mare prostie. Cele doua companii nu aveau absolut nimic in comun, iar doi ani de la achizitie s-a si vazut asta, atunci cand Ebay a anuntat (povestea romantata aici) ca a platit prea mult. Apoi au restructurat intern, regandit business-ul, lansat produse super, la anu’ se vor cota la bursa – oare isi vor reveni?

Sunt dintre fraierii care au facut mishto de Niklas (Zennstrom – founder Skype) atunci cand cerea pe la fonduri de investitii doua milioane de Eur: „Dati-mi doua milioane si va dau cea mai mare companie de telefonie din lume” – Ouch, a zis toata lumea, omul e nebun.
Am zis si eu la fel, desi il cunosteam de cand facuse din Kazaa (precursorul torentilor) un mare exchange de muzica. Tehnologia Kazaa era extrem de interesanta: se da un server de logare (singurul server al furnizorului de altfel) si o aplicatie desktop care, odata instalata pe calculatorul X, daca i se cere sa comunice cu calculatorul Y se descurca sa comunice direct (in mod sincron, cum se exprima cei de la Skype), fara a trece prin serverele furnizorului, gasind drumul optim folosind aplicatiile celor logati, ca proxy-uri. Dupa ce a pus la punct tehnologia (repet, doua mari avantaje: a. Nu aveau nevoie de infrastructura proprie si b. Calitatea comunicatiei era semnificativ mai buna decat alternativele), tanarul a renuntat la Kazaa (oricum la limita legalitatii…) si a folosit tehnologa respectiva pentru Skype. Vandut in 4 ani la eBay pentru aprox Eur2B.
Spectaculos, doar ca eBay nu a stiut ce sa faca cu acest business. Nici nu vreau sa ma gandesc ce s-ar fi intamplat daca o companie ca Google ar fi cumparat Skype… probabil ca deja nu mai vorbeam decat Skype…

Acum dupa 3 ani in care au stat pe loc (in businessul nostru asta inseamna ca au dat inapoi) lucrurile se schimba. Partial in bine, partial in rau: Partea rea este ca au complicat aplicatia. Mi-am instalat luna trecuta versiunea 4 si gradul de simplitate care pana acum ma incanta a disparut. Este antipatic sa navighezi, desi foarte multe features noi sunt utile. Mananca resurse, nu mai este foarte previzibila. Partea buna este ca au inteles in sfarsit unde trebuie sa ajunga: desi se prezinta in continuare ca un producator de software, fac miscari in directia initiala – de telecom: au inceput sa faca contracte cu furnizori de telefonie mobila sa ofere Skype gratuit. Check this out: www.three.co.uk . Un pilot de concept de business, care a prins extraordinar de bine in UK si pe care inteleg ca-l vor franciza si in alte tari: cumperi telefonul si ai free cals to skype for life (platesti daca suni catre alte mobile, of course). Daca tinerii se misca bine, parca vad ca in doi ani ne vom cumpara astfel de mobile, vom avea toti cont pe skype si vom vorbi free (ma rog, in tot cazul cei sub o anumita varsta).
Altfel, inteleg ca deja au produse pentru SMB, care sa inlocuiasca complet centrala telefonica si serviciul furnizorului de telefonie. Ramane sa cumperi doar o linie de internet si esti complet legat la lume (Cisco, atentie maxima….).

O companie de urmarit si, in functie de cum se descurca cu IPO-ul in lumea asta crizata, probabil ca e de cumparat ceva actiuni…



Marius Muscalu

July 6th, 2009 at 11:33 am

skype bate yahoo messenger la orice capitol….din pacate in lista skype am 5-10 contacte iar in yahoo 100+ ….. pe skype orice merge mai bine….video, transfer fisiere, absolut orice….

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Catalin Rotaru

July 6th, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Cum poate un cetatean roman sa cumpere actiuni la firmele IT din US? Poti recomanda vreun broker? Cum se platesc taxele aici? E-Trade nu cred ca isi ofera in afara USA…

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    Razvan Pasol

    July 7th, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Cetatenii romani pot investi la bursele din SUA folosind serviciile unui broker autorizat pe pietele respective. Nu exista restrictii din partea legislatiei romanesti si, in general, nu exista restrictii nici din partea firmelor de brokeraj straine pentru cetatenii romani.

    E-trade este o optiune buna si ofera servicii inclusiv pentru persoane din afara SUA. Linkul pentru deschiderea unui cont pe E-trade pentru clienti din afara SUA este aici.

    Veniturile obtinute din tranzactii in strainatate se declara anual pe formularul 201 (disponibil pe siteul ANAF), care se depune la administratia financiara pana pe data de 15 mai. Pentru informatii suplimentare puteti consulta si codul fiscal, art. 90.


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July 7th, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Si mai interesant este ca dupa ce au vandut Skype catre eBay cu 2.6miliarde$ Zennström si Friis vor sa cumpere inapoi pentru 1.7miliarde$. Asta dupa 4 ani in care a crescut de la 53 la 405 miloane utilizatori. Problema cu Skype este metoda de monetizare, acestea realizandu-se doar prin serviciile premium platite de utilizatori.
In cazul in care cei doi vor reusi sa rascumpere poate au si o metoda mai eficienta de a face bani, caz in care o investitie in shares ar fi mai mult decat profitabila.

Cu respect,

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August 8th, 2009 at 8:10 pm


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September 1st, 2009 at 5:51 pm


Si uite cum ebay renunta la skype. Peste doi ani o sa avem o noua stire : ebay cumpara IAR skype :))

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