Skype API Developer Program: View from the Top

I just spent twenty minutes interviewing Lenn Pryor, Director of Skype’s Developer Platform Business Unit. Lenn joined Skype just over a year ago; that year has provided plenty of opportunity to not only to assess the potential but also to make the changes required to have a successful Developer Platform business.

Skype Journal: Lenn, what is your vision for the Developer Programs going forward?

Lenn: Let’s start by going back a year or so. The Skype API’s were launched just over 12 months ago; we spent the first year laying the foundation. We introduced several basic support services including the website developer zone, forums, a developer weblog, and support documentation all at the same time as building a developer community. It was a learning experience for both our team and our developer partners; we learned a lot about what is required to support hardware, software and services built around Skype. We identified two key needs:

  • on the product side: better and more API’s; we have made several announcements at this meeting
  • and on the business side: raise awareness for the new applications offered by our developer partners. The Plugin Framework announced at the DevCon (available in Q4-06) will help to address this issue by:
    • building applications that have a tighter fit within the Skype User Interface
    • facilitate both awareness and buying logistics associated with monetizing the applications.

Skype Journal: What is/are the most critical issue(s) to address?

Lenn: The most critical issue once applications are built is to assist our developers with building a sustainable business. To address the latter the Plugin Framework will result in a catalog of Skype services available through third parties and decrease or eliminate the transaction friction resulting in a seamless buying experience.

Skype Journal: What is the extent your responsibilities in directing the Developer Program Business Unit?

Lenn: At the Developer Program Business Unit our responsibilities are to provide the infrastructure tools to make it possible for business development to assist our partners build successful businesses. Our Platform and API responsibilities include:

  • API Product Management
  • Documentation
  • Developer Relations
  • Technical Support

One more comment: we are building a tiered program to support our developer partners. We have been swamped with developer opportunities. We had to learn from working with the larger vendors and want to migrate this learning for dealing with smaller partners. Our challenge is now to answer the question: “How do we find a way for these partners to connect with Skype at an appropriate business level?”

Skype Journal: What additional resources are forthcoming to support this challenge?

Lenn: Over the past year we have expanded from one to ten employees involved in the Partner Program; we expect to expand this by 10 to 12 additional personnel with responsibility for:

  • API Product Management
  • Technical Support
  • Documentation
  • Evangelists
  • Partner Program Support

Skype Journal: Thanks, Lenn, for taking time out of your busy schedule here.

Editorial comment: The past two days have seen lots of promise for supporting the developer communities while building entrepreneurial businesses, not only with Skype but also with eBay and PayPal developer partners. It should be an interesting ride over the next few months to see how well the execution reflects the promise.

Skype Journal would like to acknowledge the assistance of Multi-Link, Inc. in facilitating our attendance at eBay Live.

About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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