Demythifying the Skype Developer Story


Skype-Extras-Skype-Developer-Zone-Blog On Friday the Skype Developer Blog posted a blog announcing the end of the Skype Extras program in what amounts to two stages:

  1. Immediately: No new partner programs or upgrades will be placed into the Skype Extras
  2. Going forward: Skype Extras will remain available via the Skype for Windows client until their certification expires (which may be up to a year).

Effectively, Skype has admitted that the Skype Extras program has not been a great success as a marketing tool. “Despite the incredible breadth of Extras developed for Skype, simply not enough people were using them to justify our continued support of the Extras programme.”

However, as indicated by a Skype Software Partner’s tweet above, Skype’s developer support will be continuing. Why?

In the same announcement, it was stated that the Skype Public API’s and their documentation remain available; more importantly, it was stated that “Skype will continue to support accessories via the Public API.”

But the uniformed media fallout has been attempting to put “doom and gloom” for Skype developer activities going forward. However, had Skype personnel worked with their PR agency who has been very adept at educating both mainstream media and bloggers with the background on Skype announcements, this “doom and gloom” cloud could have been avoided. (No press release was issued; so we have to assume Skype’s PR agency was not consulted.) Some of this “missing” information is in my recent post: “Skype Extras” Is Dead; Long Live the Skype API’s!.

Here are some of the myths that have resulted along with some of the facts that dispel them:

Myth: GigaOm: Skype kills its developer ecosystem: While it is true that “if you put your lot with Skype then you are on your own” for the marketing aspect of a software partner’s offering, the Skype API’s are not going away. And Skype is finally reviewing how it can work best with developers. Some considerations:

  • Last fall, Skype announced the appointment of Daniel Berg as Chief Technology Officer. In the spring they announced the appointment of former Counterpath CTO Jason Fischl as Director of Developer Relations heading up the Skype Developer Program. Maybe their silence to date says something about their evaluation of the previous Skype developer activity and their need to take time to articulate an overall Skype platform within which the Skype SDK and Skype API’s will be playing a role. Most importantly, my network’s jungle drums say they are still very active within Skype.
  • Check out this job opening for a Platform Release Manager that starts out with “You will be responsible for planning and releasing each new version of the Skype SDK used as part of the upcoming Platform strategy.”
  • The Skype post itself ended with: “we still believe there are opportunities for third-party developers to enhance the Skype experience”.

As implied in the OnState tweet above, and confirmed by my own conversations with other Skype partners, we should be looking forward to new enhancements to the Skype Developer Program and the Skype SDK. But maybe Skype should have filled in media and bloggers with this information via their PR network instead of bluntly announcing the end of a support program with no offsetting information.

Myth: Skype is eating its software partners. Andy Abramson, VoIP Watch, Skype Shutting Down Extras Program: “Skype will begin offering more services that are labelled as Skype vs from third parties”. What this really should read  is:

Skype will begin offering more services expanding on its core “conversation” technology expertise and will be looking to third parties to complement their core services by incorporating Skype into offerings that leverage the individual partners’ unique expertise.

For instance:

  • Skype for Asterisk (developed by Skype partner Digium) and Skype for SIP will be integrating Skype’s calling and presence functionality into “legacy” platforms as they evolve the Skype for Business program. Expect to hear more at Christopher Dean’s talk at Fall VON next week in Miami.
  • As initially indentified by Phil, the Skype Jobs listings include some for a new “Skype Labs” location:

    Skype Labs is a new R&D center located in the Bay Area focused on next generation technologies for Skype which will be applicable over the next one to five years. The initial areas of work will include security, signaling and call control for audio, video and presence, p2p and collaboration.

  • However, OnState brings decades of call center experience into their Call Center – an application for which Skype has neither the experience nor bandwidth to develop. (Full disclosure: the author is involved with a new small business that will be using OnState’s Call Center as a paying customer.)
  • PamFax brings a simple five or six step process for sending faxes worldwide from any PC. Having followed the development of this service over the past two years, they have built a system that solves the basic faxing problem in a user friendly, yet highly secure, manner. Once again Skype has neither the expertise nor bandwidth to address this issue. (And Scendix, PamFax’s developer who was the only third party using Skype Credits to any extent, has already made plans for other payment services when they launched version 2.0 last spring).
  • Looking at Skype Jobs, one finds the engineering jobs are focused on evolving Skype’s core functionality: video codecs, video QA engineer, audio components, director of mobile engineering, etc.
  • The Product Manager – Applications job description includes responsibility for:
    • Extras like call recording and faxing. (Is Skype going to make an offer for veteran Skype software partner Scendix?)
    • Partner integrations with CRM, Security, Collaboration and similar applications (insert Call Center here).

Bottom line:

  • Recent Skype successes include their High Quality Video (nobody has duplicated their ability to do VGA-standard video calling over standard broadband connections) and the SILK codec for higher quality Skype-to-Skype voice calling.
  • Expect a multi-party video conferencing service, improved audio and video services and hardware (for instance, finding partners such as client In Store Solutions whose FREETALK Everyman headset addresses an identified end user issue with respect to call quality in a user-friendly way).
  • Skype will continue to seek out partners, such as Scendix (Pamela and PamFax), Digium, Skylook (CRM), OnState and InnerPass (document management), who incorporate Skype into a range of business services where the partner has significant expertise that can complement Skype’s core conversation technologies via their API’s (both existing and future).
  • Skype’s current Partners are seeing business success:
    • Unyte and VAPPS have been acquired by IBM’s Lotus Sametime Division and Citrix Online respectively
    • OnState is finding its Call Center offering stealthing into larger enterprises due to not only its feature set but also its cost saving
    • PamFax 2.0 has been a most successful launch; Pamela 4.6 was recently launched with video recording.
    • InnerPass has had over 1 million version 1.0 downloads since January. Watch this space for future announcements.
  • Statements to the effect that “Skype is abandoning/axing its developer partners” are a myth; once more it’s a case of Skype’s managing their communications onto the blogger space. Memo to Skype: Work with your PR agency (who has done an excellent job over the past two years) and the complete message can get out.

Question: What should Skype really be doing for developer support programs going forward? A recent TechCrunch post by Michael Arrington, some of Andy’s other comments and some comments in Skype Journal’s Skype 5.x Public Chat (Phil’s rushing it – this was the Skype 4.x Public Chat until a week ago) provide some hints. A post will follow.

P.S. – Do you have communications technology and/or marketing experience? It seems like Skype is doing its part to stimulate the economy. Check out the Skype Job Vacancies page where, today, over 60 job openings are listed (some listings are actually for multiple hires).

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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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