A Primer for Skype’s Direction – Skype’s Extras Gallery and Developer Partner Program

This is the fourth post in a series summarizing the current state of Skype’s ecosystem and providing a perspective on the assets in place for a new CEO to run with.

Getting to the Present

Alec Saunders’ Voice 2.0 Manifesto talks about Applications as the value creators in a Voice 2.0 world. Once again Skype differentiates itself through a two-year-old Skype Developer Partner program as evidenced by Skype’s Extras Gallery. But getting to this point was not easy; in fact:

  • Developer Partners had to be true entrepreneurs who kept their vision of a value-generating application above all the obstacles encountered in not only developing their offering but also in initially marketing it. Close communication with many players at Skype was a key to resolving many issues.
  • Skype needed to develop experience with all the subtleties of a developer program from building a roadmap and a viable API set to communicating where Skype would play and where they would let their Partners play in the overall market space.
  • Skype’s API set has evolved over time to the point where only over the past summer, as evidenced through the Skype Mashup competition, it provides a more complete set of developer tools, including many, such as Call Transfer, that have been clamored for by developers. (But Skype is by no means finished yet with delivering API’s.)
  • Skype has also developed a publishing platform, Publishing Studio, that lets developers focus on their application while providing the infrastructure to bring the application to market and generate transactions associated with the application
  • To provide standards for quality assurance, Skype is in the process of certifying its partners’ software applications.

The Voice 2.0 Challenge

The Voice 2.0 Manifesto talks about three flavors of applications:

  • Voice applications such as conferencing, enhanced voice mail, audio hosting.
  • Voice enabled IT applications: collaboration tools, Salesforce.com, Outlook integration, call centers — all designed to assist the knowledge worker
  • The voice web: mashup of voice and the Internet. Here the combination of voice and web services offers the greatest opportunities. From the Voice 2.0 Manifesto: “Examples include: spoken word real estate descriptions from the MLS coupled with mapping, voice enabled matchmaker services, customer service coupled with inventory / ordering / availability. The mix of text, web, voice, and programmatic access to data is a heady brew.”

To date we have seen several offerings in the first two categories with initial steps taken, such as with PamFax, into the last category. However, this category’s true potential will only be realized when web services API’s are incorporated into the Skype API set. (The first one is on their recently released roadmap.) One other challenge for the SDP is to extend this program from Windows to the Mac platform.

Skype Publisher Studio

In the course of judging for the Skype Mashup Competition and checking out some newer Skype Extras, it became apparent why the Skype Publishing Studio is a valuable asset and differentiator, not only for Skype but also for, especially, the Skype Developer Partners:

  • provides complete install/uninstall infrastructure
  • includes Digital Rights Management that allows the publisher to determine the licensing terms for the software including free trials and offerings; tolled, monthly or annual subscriptions, etc.
  • connects to a transaction processor that provides mechanisms for payments via Skype Credtis, which, in turn, can be purchased via PayPal or a credit card.

Basically the Publisher Studio relieves Extras publishers of the need to worry about overhead that would be common to them all and allowing them to focus all their resources on the actual value-creating application. Along with the Publishing Stuido, the Skype Developer program is requiring adherence to standards for usability, robustness and overall quality assurance through the Skype Software Certification program.

PamFax, worldwide winner of the recent Skype Mashup competition, demonstrates the full power of the Publishing Studio through its use of all features, including transaction handling. My quote to the Share Skype blog post about PamFax’s award:

“As I judge I found many excellent entries that demonstrate the value of various aspects of the Skype ecosystem. However, the winners have gone beyond the normal “just add Skype” and taken a broader advantage of the entire Skype ecosystem to turn their Skype Extra into a full business opportunity. For instance, PamFax demonstrates that the Skype Extra program not only provides API’s into Skype but also provides a flexible set of licensing terms and a unique means to quickly collect revenues via the Skype Extras transaction engine.”

Essential Reading: Phil’s post yesterday (Russell Shaw also thought so): Why Skype and Vonage Must Live:

Skype is still evolving how to work in the hundreds of network and compute environments in hundreds of millions of situations. Those situations are challenging and evolving on their own. How you cross firewalls, scale p2p, and adapt streams for mobile conditions aren’t ready to be locked down.

Bottom line: Along with Skype’s provision of a complete suite of real time conversation tools, the Skype Developer Partner program is the other big differentiator from other “VoIP” services. This program:

  • positions Skype outside the traditional “legacy telephony replacement” space
  • opens up significant sustainable revenue generation opportunities for both Skype and its Developer Partners
  • brings reduced communications costs and increased productivity to its business users

And somebody must like these Extras: over 21 million downloads. Another success story: WebDialogs (publisher of Unyte) recently became a division of IBM’s Lotus SameTime Group.

Reference posts:

Business Solutions Extras:

For Skype Journal posts on these Partners, enter the Partner’s name into Skype Journal’s Search box and you will get a list of all posts related to that Partner. The complete set of Skype Extras, including games, entertainment and personalization Extras, can be found here or by going to Tools | Do More | Get Extras on the Skype for Windows client.

Other posts in this Skype Primer Series

  • A Backgrounder
  • Enabling Real Time Communications
  • Skype Hardware – If and When Available

Tags: Skype, Voice 2.0 Manifesto, Skype API, Skype Extras, Skype Developer Partner Program, Skype Publishing Studio, Pamela, Skylook, Evoca, HighSpeedConferencing.com, OnState ACD for Skype, Convenos, Unyte, Yugma, Crazy Talk, MyToGo, PamFax, Phil Wolff, Russell Shaw

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About Jim Courtney

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

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