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From Stuart Henshall of skypejournal.com.

What’s the developer’s view of the Skype/eBay deal? What are the new opportunities? From a telecommunications industry perspective is there less to fear or more?

Let me lay out the prize that Skype developers are playing for and put even more fear into telecoms suppliers.

Here’s the situation. First, eBay has 500,000 sellers, most of which don’t know or understand Skype. However, they are entrepreneurial, quick to copy best practices, and used to working with new forms of software. They are motivated by money.

Secondly, eBay has clarified Skype’s strategy. There is no longer a question of “when will there be an enterprise version?”

Skype had been claiming to be a consumer play. Now it is clear it is a platform play, part of a multi-modal commerce engine and no longer has to remain cautious about the enterprise. It only has to unleash its developers and open up access.

And the start for developers is “call transfer”. The functionality is almost embedded in Skype.

In the 1.4 beta “call forwarding” is available. However, call forwarding is an automated redirection and the inbound caller only knows the call is forwarded.

With call transfer, by contrast, the call can be answered and redirected to either another Skype account (free) or to a landline (at the transferer’s cost).

On transfers, inbound callers will receive identity information on the person they are talking to. Call transfer enables interactive voice-response applications, effectively offering call centre functionality.

And because Skype call transfer functionality can bypass traditional private branch exchange networks, small companies can acquire enterprise-style communications systems for a pittance.

And imagine the ease with which the seller can direct details and similarly automate information content, such as allowing potential buyers to watch a video of the product free of charge via Skype.

Similarly, calls coming into an auction will have caller ID of potential buyers, feedback of buyers, and can concurrently provide additional information back, such as details of other auctions.

This isn’t even a full list of benefits of the deal. There is the potential here to link Skype and eBay user profiles to databases on other services and create new communities and communication tools. But these will come later.

But for now, by combining their strategic direction Skype and eBay have created a world in which Skype enables a much broader platform. Thus connected to different application platform interfaces and also living within both PayPal – the company’s online payment facility – and eBay, we see a Skype emerging which will enable developers to give free rein to their imagination and build a range tools that can be used, as long as they are certified.

Developers might design their own softphones, enterprise solutions, or even “pay to call you” channels – a Skype equivalent of premium telephone services.

Skype’s goal of making communications free is two steps closer, by creating a business environment around the technology and then enabling people to sell access.

The opportunity for software-only developers may well turn out to be in designing the tools to manage that access.

But alongside the opportunity apparent in the takeover of creating a market around conversations, there are also questions.

Will Skype or eBay want to carry out much of this development themselves?

Will eBay block potential in the adult market – an area where a great many developers see potential?

What percentage will they want for facilitating the new market? There are very many unknowns at present.

To conclude: Skype/eBay/PayPal find themselves developing a platforming strategy for conversational markets.

At first, this will create new experiences and encourage new developer solutions at the intersection of the three businesses.

How open the enlarged business is to the innovation in the developer community could well determine its success.

There is a shared opportunity for the company and independent developers.

Ebay will undoubtedly find ways to achieve a return on the huge investment it has made in Skype, but the rewards could be all the richer if it opens the platform to outside influences.

Skypejournal.com is an independent blog providing news, views and support for Skype users and developers

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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