The week in technology: Skype hype hits new high
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EBay became the latest company linked to a purchase of Skype, with a price tag of $2bn to $3bn. The dominant internet auction group has recently fallen to second place behind Google in the ranks of pure-play internet companies, and excitement about consumer voice-over-IP has gone into overdrive since Google Talk was launched.
News Corp, Yahoo and Hutchison have previously been linked to a Skype sale.
Some said an Ebay purchase of Skype would make sense, but talk kept returning to the synergies, with a raft of analysts questioning what EBay stood to gain from the purchase. There was scepticism over the most obvious synergy - that Ebay sellers could communicate with buyers via Skype.
VoIP wacher and blogger Andy Abramson told the Mercury News it may have been a ploy to grab attention. “They’re master marketers,” he said of Skype. “They understand viral marketing.” However he said Ebay, like Skype, understood the value of building a community, something which financial analysts are more sceptical of, mainly because Skype’s estimated revenues are a relatively paltry €50m to €70m.
The Skype frenzy has prompted many musings on whether internet companies are once again being overvalued. “If I were the owner of Skype and someone was willing to offer $3bn,” a Forrester analyst told the FT, “I would take the money and run.”
News Corp gets IGN
IGN is particularly popular with men - its main offerings relate to games, with cheats, downloads and forums, Its IGN.com network also includes sites titled Cars, Music, and something called Babes which the FT’s firewall wouldn’t let us look at - but is presumably aimed at young men considering fatherhood. IGN also owns the brilliant rottentomatoes.com website, which aggregates film reviews (although unfortunately limited to US reviews) and gives each film a percentage rating.
Motley Fool wins wittiest headline on the acquisition with “Murdoch to the Extreme!”, with a story that points to flat operating revenue at Fox and says News is keen to recapture the young, affluent youth market MySpace are so popular. something that Murdoch himself was fairly clear about with his “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” comments in his Damascene speech in April in which he declared the traditional media were being complacent about the internet.
So what about Blinkx, News Corp’s other target? It’s multimedia search capabilities are often highlighted but Blinkx’s original selling point was its desktop search and contextual indexing. The hype about Blinkx began back in June 2004 when Om Malik from Business 2.0 saw a demo and blogged that he had the same “tingling sensation” he experienced five years earlier when two fresh-faced boys named Larry and Sergey demonstrated something called Google.
Apple versus Sony versus Apple
It was an even busier week than usual for the digital music industry. Apple launched two new products- one, the well-anticipated collaboration with Motorola on an iPod phone, and the other a matchstick-width mini iPod, the Nanopod. Sony, keen to make up lost ground in the portable music market, launched a new version of its Walkman: two models, holding 2GB and 20GB, which support MP3, Sony’s own ATRAC file format, and will later introduce Windows Media support.
Engadget has a nice big picture of the new Walkman’s unusual “organic EL display” and notes that there was no mention from Sony of the battery life of the thing - which was briefly a concern about the iPod before it came to dominate the portable music world.
While Sony struggles against iPod in most of the world, it says it is neck and neck in Japan.
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