Stuart Henshall looks at Skype’s first year:
Skype’s business model is dramatically different to the traditional telecoms. For the most part all the hardware required to operate the network is owned by the individuals using the service. Thus unlike traditional telecoms there is no need to build out infrastructure, new users simply bring it to Skype. In that way it is similar to the Seti at Home project.
Increasingly I think of Skype’s potential like a low cost electrical utility. Compared with telecoms which have had little innovation in handsets the electrical grid enables thousands of different appliances. Electricity is also similar in that it is always-on and you use it in real-time. The switch and control remains with the user.
A year ago Skype was just another IM client with a voice-centric bias and tremendous audio quality. People said no-one makes money at IM or in free telephony. I have quotes in my Skype Journal. A small few a year ago (including me) said that Skype was disruptive based on its architecture and audio quality. I believe the hidden learning now is more about evolutionary changes that may not look like much in the short term but in the end are quite revolutionary. Skype is beginning to rewire the whole way in which we communicate. It will extend to business processes and social interactions. It’s also living proof that telephony is now just a software application.
Their platform capability means that when they release an effective API just about anyone may be able to develop services that plug into Skype’s data and communications network. Early DOS is a good comparison in this regard. Although there it was hardware, Skype is directing their assault at platforms. These platforms have long life spans and the operating piece they are carving out is underdeveloped. While Microsoft looks at Dell, IBM, HP, Toshiba, etc, Skype is looking at the platform suppliers as manufacturers.
So their strategy poses a continued strategy for both Telecoms and Microsoft Windows. Telecoms are threatened by the cost structure and the long-term challenge to their numbering system. While Windows will be challenged by Skype if the API is open enough because the incentive will exist to develop an office platform for Linux that integrates presence and availability and communication capabilities with documents and files. While LCS Live Communication Server will offer this capability it requires a central server and my guess is still a lower quality audio engine. A successful Skype gives new utility to a Linux desktop at significantly lower cost vs. Windows. If the API enables easy cross platform solutions then this market may explode.