Skype’s Opportunity for IM Federation Leadership

It’s been a busy week:

  • The previously announced (eight months ago) MSN/Yahoo IM federation became real. Yawn.
  • Phil Wolff and Alec Saunders have commented on the Skype code cracking by a Chinese engineering team.
  • Ken Camp has linked both the U3 Skype/SanDisk announcement and any potential Skype code cracking to corporate security policy implications.

I tend to be more pragmatic in terms of looking at how can I use Skype more effectively as a business and personal communications tool as opposed to worrying about all the implications of any Skype protocol publication. For instance, I have been evaluating a couple of the new Nokia N-series personal communications accessories; they are much more than just a wireless phone! And certainly represent an excellent platform for personal accessory convergence; I have found a wealth of uses for them.

However, since they are based on the Symbian S60 Series operating system, there is currently no opportunity to use Skype for Mobile. The one aspect I miss much more than the voice communications is the absence of any Instant Messaging with my Skype contacts. I mention this only as background to how important Instant Messaging has become to those who have incorporated any version of Instant Messaging into their daily activities.

Today Alec has published one of his insightful benchmark posts, Detente in IM’s Cold War, on the opportunities that could arise from the (currently theoretical) public availability of certain Skype protocols (whether directly from Skype or via “cracked code”). He sees where, with the right approach to publication of the appropriate Skype protocols, Skype could set the leadership standard for the federation of Instant Messaging. In particular :he views Skype from its potential as a platform and from its business model that is significantly differentiated from that of the MSN/Yahoo/AOL portal models:

Today, unlike Google Talk, Skype has brand, momentum, a large customer base, and an active ecosystem of partners. These are the ingredients for a successful platform play. Unlike the dominant players, Skype makes their money from traffic across network bridges, from applications partnerships (like TellMe), and from downloadable add-on’s to the application. They are much less dependent on monetizing eyeballs than AOL, MSN, or Yahoo. There wouldn’t be the tension between their existing business model and a platform model which AOL, MSN, and Yahoo have to contend with. As the incumbents, AOL, MSN and Yahoo would be victims of the Innovators Dilemma. Skype would be the disruptor.

And challenges Skype management to take the leadership role in IM federation. Punt to Niklas (and Alex).

About Jim Courtney

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

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