Skype making all the right business moves

While Skype's Android app and potential Facebook integration grab the headlines, the company has made a series of key moves that will make it a bigger player in the business technology market.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

It is very rare when a company outlines a business strategy in an initial public offering prospectus and sets about delivering on those goals even before it goes public. Skype is that company and right now it is making all the right business moves.

While Skype's Android app and potential Facebook integration grab the headlines, the company has made a series of key moves that will make it a bigger player in the business technology market. Skype's moves set it up to be a potential cash cow and position it well for enterprise collaboration as well as unified communications. Those topics may bore some folks, but that's where the money is. Skype is following the greenbacks and larger players like Cisco and Microsoft may want to take note.

Let's run through the recent history:

  • Skype on Monday named Tony Bates CEO. Bates was the GM for Cisco's enterprise, commercial and small business unit. Bates' group had $20 billion in revenue and 12,500 employees. Simply put, Bates reported to Cisco CEO John Chambers, who has ben harping about collaboration via WebEx, video conferencing and networking for years. Skype wants scale and Bates can get the company there.
  • Last week, Skype forged a partnership with Avaya, a massive unified communications player. In short, Skype and Avaya will embark on a multi-year technology integration deal. In the second half of 2011, Avaya's Aura systems will be integrated with Skype. The Art of War here is interesting. Avaya and Cisco go toe-to-toe. Skype also could take on Cisco in collaboration. Get the theme here?
  • Last month, Skype launched a channel program to train and certify systems integrators. Simply put, Skype is covering its small and mid-sized enterprise market.
  • In August, Skype launched Connect 1.0 from beta. Skype Connect allows its service to join forces with unified communications systems and private branch exchanges (PBX) networks.

All of those events occurred after Skype filed for an IPO and outlined the following grand plan:

Approximately 37% of over 40,000 of our connected users surveyed in the first quarter of 2010 told us that they use our product platform occasionally or often for business-related purposes. We believe there is a significant opportunity to better serve the communications needs of the small and medium enterprise segment, as well as larger enterprise customers, by focusing on user needs in this market and developing additional products specifically tailored to business users.

Skype then said it would offer business-focused products, grow its business sales team and launch partnerships. So far so good. Most companies highlight a business strategy and then sort of followup. Skype is methodically checking off the key items to become an enterprise player. Skype already has a business version of its collaboration tools, but the other enterprise parts are falling into place.

Competition looms

Add it up and Skype has been damn impressive. If you follow business technology at all you know Skype is making all the right moves. The problem is that Skype still faces some heavy competition.

Cisco is front and center on Skype's radar. The easy move for Cisco would be to buy Skype and eliminate the threat. However, Skype's Avaya deal will make a Cisco acquisition difficult.

If Skype's eventual market cap cooperates, you could almost see the company buying Polycom. That deal would put Skype-Polycom in a collaboration league dominated by Cisco and Avaya. But let's not get ahead of ourselves---Skype still has to go public.

However, the point is clear: Skype has the mojo to be a major thorn in the side of many incumbent enterprise players. Its sticky service can easily be a way to broaden out into new markets.

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