As you may be well aware by now, eBay is buying Skype for $2.6 billion.
The debate now centers on "what does this tell us," and "where do we go from here."
Last week, I wrote about why such a deal makes sense. I gave two reasons, and I'm stickin' by 'em.
Helping to add another form of communication to the eBay buyer-seller process:
"Here would be a way for buyers and sellers on eBay to talk to each other, or even just to Instant Message. That actually would make a lot of sense."
Something eBay CEO Meg Whitman said in the eBay press release today tends to corroborate my thinking:
"Communications is at the heart of ecommerce and community," said Meg Whitman, President and Chief Executive Officer of eBay. "By combining the two leading ecommerce franchises, eBay and PayPal, with the leader in Internet voice communications, we will create an extraordinarily powerful environment for business on the Net."
"I see the merger helping eBay grow in new categories and make new marketplaces. For example lead generation of sales of items. This is very much akin to what Google is seeking to do with Google Talk and will fuel a pay per call model as a revenue generation driver. Buyers and quantify and pre-qualify their purchases or bid. Voice replaces email in this model. According to Meg Whitman 5 million emails go between buyers and sellers. Once eBay and Skype integrate the communications tool user names will serve as the way people connect. No need to share phone numbers. This will be very beneficial on high ticket items, especially with eBay Motors."
Oh, but let us not forget: Reason two:
A new revenue stream for eBay. They may need it. As I explained:
"If eBay keeps pursuing this, they are smart. I draw from the feedback of a close relative, who is an eBay Power Seller. She started her own business on eBay, but over the years, has transitioned it into her own site. She now views her eBay experiences as kind of e-commerce training wheels - a stage in her business that she has long transcended. While grateful for what she learned on eBay, she'd rather not pay the commission that comes with eBay sales.
"I have to think that there are tens of thousands of people like her. It would make sense for eBay to come up with strategies for additional revenue. Skype could well be it."
While not dismissing what Andy and me are saying about buyer-seller communication, our own David Berlind attaches greater importance to the revenue generator issue:
"But in the end, Skype will probably be more important to eBay as a stand alone revenue generator than it will be as an integral communications tool to the company's existing auction/commerce platform. "
But David raises another, equally valid point.
In essence, he says that the value of eBay buying Skype is that this gives them a counter-strategy against other giants, such as Microsoft, which is buying softphone developer Teleo.
I'd add buying Skype would also equip eBay to battle against Google (VoIP-bound Google Talk); AOL (VoIP-bound AIM), and Yahoo! (VoIP-bound Dialpad integration).
David has one final point that has gotten me to thinking...
"Where's Amazon," David writes of eBay's main ecommerce rival, and their absence thus far in the VoIP build or buy race.
It may be that Amazon feels they have enough revenue streams. Or, maybe they buy a company like Net2Phone?