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What should be Skype's business model? I sort through the visions

On Om Malik's Broadband Blog, guest writer Jesse Kopelman sees Skype as some sort of a worldwide, next-generation, virtual PBX/Centrex. And on The Motley Fool investment-related site, contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz sees Skype as an uber social networking enabler.

On Om Malik's Broadband Blog, guest writer Jesse Kopelman sees Skype as some sort of a worldwide, next-generation, virtual PBX/Centrex.

And on The Motley Fool investment-related site, contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz sees Skype as an uber social networking enabler.

In this post, I will try and weave these two disparate visions together.  

"The business model I envision for Skype could be generalized as Centrex service," Kopelman writes. "The idea behind Centrex is you want the benefits of a PBX but not the cost of buying the equipment and the hassle of maintaining it. So, you get a company (usually your local phone company) to do these things for you and send you a monthly bill. What are the benefits of a PBX? The most common are things like voicemail, being able call the other people on the PBX for free, and the cost savings of being able to efficiently share a smaller number of lines than users. "

Kopelman then points out that's what you get from Skype.

"What is more, most PBX/Centrex users have fancy phones that let them have multiple simultaneous calls and make it easy to conference calls together – functionality found in the Skype client," he opines.

Of course there's the matter of competition with branded IP PBX solutions such as Avaya's.

"The thing that gives Skype a huge advantage over say the latest Avaya PBX is that you automatically get the advantage of having millions of existing users on the same “PBX” as you and it costs nothing to add more. Meanwhile, with a traditional PBX/Centrex solution you are going to be paying a monthly fee for each and every user and you don’t even want to think about what it would cost to have 3 million simultaneous users."

But then, how do you monetize it? Kopelman sees Skype's killer apps as the presence potential of Skype's existing, bundled-in IM- and the potential for that IM to tie into social networking.

Which leads to News Corp., the international media conglomerate that now owns social networking powerhouse MySpace.com and was widely rumored to have offered $3 billion for Skype.

"Social networking is huge as users exchange thoughts and media with folks who have similar interests," Munarriz writes. "It's been hard for dot-com specialists to monetize the gargantuan number of page views that social networking has been generating, but it shouldn't be a problem for a broadcasting company like News Corp. to take advantage of hooking up its base of sponsors with the young audience that advertisers crave."

As for Skype, Munarriz sees it as the conduit for all that social networking that MySpace will bring to News Corp. - as the Murdoch-run empire further ramps up its push into new forms of communication.

"Skype would have been -- and may still prove to be -- a major coup for News Corp," Munarriz writes. "A company with wide advertising arms like News Corp. should be able to make the most of marketing to the Skype audience without turning them off along the way."

Personally, I think that's a bit of a stretch. I remain to be convinced that there's a valid business model behind MySpace. I don't get MySpace at all. I think Rupert way, way overpaid.

As for Skype, well, they do have a business model. A Knowledge At Wharton article we picked up the other day has it all figured out.

Skype should: Migrate to fee-based services such as video conferencing for corporations, and:

License its software to IP telephony OEMs.

Now, we're talkin.'