The on-going legal drama that has left a dark cloud over online voice and video communications company Skype has finally been settled. In the end, the co-founders get a 14 percent ownership of a new Skype, eBay maintains a 30 percent stake in the new company and consortium of private investors score the remaining 56 percent.
More importantly, though, the new company will finally be in a position to innovate and prosper - instead of being scrutinized under the quarterly earnings microscope of eBay to generate quarterly revenue growth. All of the previous disputes over core technologies and so on has been settled. The parties expect the deal to close by the end of the year.
Marc Andreessen, partner of Andreessen Horowitz, which is one of the investors, told VentureBeat that the company can now focus on building for the future. The company does have a lot of potential to become a powerhouse in markets that are just starting to realize their potential. Consider these forces that are changing the market for Skype:
Smartphones, which have the ability to run Skype, are growing in popularity among consumers and businesses, opening a market for people interested in low-rate international calling from a device, instead of just a PC.
Google Voice has hit the stage as a competitor in this space, notably on the international calling front, and has generated a number of headlines - and grabbed a lot of attention - because of Apple's supposed rejection of the Google Voice app for the iPhone and AT&T asking the FCC to regulate Google Voice as a telecommunications service, instead of a Web service.
Video conferencing is grabbing the attention of the cost-concerned enterprise. Cisco, for example, has made a big splash into enterprise-grade telepresence video conferencing, highlighting the money - and time - that can be saved by holding meetings by telepresence, instead of putting executives on airplanes.
I've long been a Skype user but must admit that my interaction with it has pretty much been limited to the occasional (more like rare) video chat. I've also been a long-time fan of innovation (what can I say? I'm a Silicon Valley native) so I'm happy to see the company fall back into the hands of the founders and investors who want to see the service grow and prosper.
Now, Skype execs can quit worrying about how they're going to appear on eBay's financial statements and can get back to work on making the service better, landing new partners and holding on to its brand cachet before a newcomer (Google?) comes along and unseats a pioneer.