Skype at CES 2009, Part II: An Overview and Observations

There’s a “new sheriff in town” when it come to running Skype; CES 2009 was a “coming out” event for the new executive team.

CES 2009 provided an opportunity to catch up personally with many of the vendors we have covered in Skype Journal including Skype, Truphone, SlingMedia, Philips and Research in Motion (BlackBerry). I also had a chance to attend a most informative afternoon session of Jeff Pulver’s Social Media Jungle event. Unfortunately Palm closed their suite after only two days of CES; thus, I missed an opportunity to learn more about the Palm Pre on Saturday. As Palm had just been awarded a CES “Best of Show” award, that was a “Huh?” moment when there was only a security guard at the suite’s door.. I also wanted to catch iPevo and Nokia but did not have time to get to their booths.

With respect to Skype we had three activities: the Skype press conference, an interview with new COO Scott Durchslag and Skype’s first reception event Friday evening. It was our first opportunity to observe the new Skype executive team in action. While I will be providing some more detailed posts, here are a few observations:

  • For the first time, a senior C-level Skype executive personally acknowledged Skype Journal’s participation as a playing a significant role in the Skype ecosystem. Scott thanked us for our loyalty to Skype through all the challenges of the past two years. (That does not mean we’ll always be cheerleaders; it’s important that we maintain a skeptical and critical viewpoint within the context of the overall IP-based communications space.)

While we have had co-operation in the past,  usually via Skype’s public relations agency, from many Skype employees at an operating level, it’s important for the media to be able to communicate regularly and openly with those at the C-level who are providing overall direction and developing high level strategy. Josh has initiated such openness through his blogging and interviews; now we are seeing it on a person-to-person basis..

  • On the other hand many times, last week in both the press conference and our discussions, Scott acknowledged the existence of several previous controversial issues, such as technical support, platform development, the role of partners and internal management structure issues as requiring attention by the new management team. The newly recruited management team will be introducing a new level of experience and maturity to address these issues; execution over the next few months now becomes critical.
  • One future post will cover Skype’s new operating and management structure focused on products and geographical markets.
  • Another will cover Skype’s overall focus as a software platform developer and the standards being set for these developments. Within this context I’ll provide my perspective on what is meant by “liquid communications”.
  • We’ll soon have a follow up post about our discussion with Scott of what Skype’s new executive team learned from the TOM-Skype privacy breach last fall and how it became a bonding exercise within Skype as well as establishing some new operating parameters to avoid a repeat.
  • Skype is NOT shoving its partners under the bus. The new executive team is determining what innovation Skype will drive and what innovation they can expect partners to drive. Andy Abramson articulates his perspective on the issue:

Most of all, Skype is not sitting back. The are pushing the envelope, but at the same time sending mixed messages externally to partners and developers. But that too will change. Some recent hires have brought maturity to the table.

  • We learned the answer to “Will There Be a Skype Client on the iPhone?”
  • Finally, for the first time since I have been writing about Skype, we can see some well-articulated high level vision for where Skype is heading, where they need to focus and how they want to play in the real time communications market space at a strategic level.

Looking forward to writing about the evolution of Skype as it grows from a $500MM per year operation with 500 employees into a business with a revenue level and valuation that finally justifies eBay’s initial investment in Skype.

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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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