eBay-Skype Deal

Kevin Werbach has some interesting thoughts:

Communications and the Internet are converging. As a result, the idea of paying per-minute for basic telephone calls is quickly becoming an anachronism. The telecom industry as we know it will be replaced by a converged broadband environment with very different economic drivers. The major communications infrastructure providers — telephone, cable, and wireless companies — think they will dominate this new world. By controlling the pipes, they hope to extract a share of profits from the applications running on those pipes.

eBay-Skype represents an end-run around that “walled garden” vision. Skype is a self-contained communications platform, effectively designed to circumvent both traditional government regulation and private efforts to constrain applications. Given its huge user base, it could become the dominant Internet communications ecosystem, just as eBay has become the dominant ecosystem for person-to-person transactions online.

eBay isn’t alone. There are persistent rumors that Google is putting the ducks in line to create its own global communications platform. Yahoo! has multimedia capabilities in its instant messaging client and it recently acquired DialPad, a significant consumer VOIP player. And Microsoft has understood for several years that communications will be an important part of its future, albeit not as a traditional telephone company.

No one knows how exactly this story will play out. What is clear is that every major player will want to have communications capabilities as part of its toolkit. Users will get converged communications services from multiple providers: it will sound as awkward to talk about “your phone company” as it would to identify “your e-commerce company” or “your search engine company.” Get ready for some creative disruption!

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.