Skype is back to being an independent service after eBay sold its majority stake in the company to a group of private investors.
But can the voice, video and text communication service survive a rapidly evolving mobile market?
Since its founding six years ago, Skype has built up a roster of more than 520 million registered customers who use the free Web service for voice, video or text communication. In just the last quarter, it added 40 million users.
Still, Skype is facing some challenges. One problem is growing competition from other high-profile services, including Google Inc’s (GOOG.O) Google Voice.
Another, perhaps larger, issue is that consumers are increasingly using mobile phones rather than landlines for communication. For Skype, mostly used on desktop computers, this means it must quickly make inroads into mobile.
Basically the above Reuters article by Sinead Carew argues that Skype’s best bet would be to work with major wireless carriers to integrate it’s service, instead of residing as a separate application users would have to open each time they wanted to use it.
Do you see AT&T or Sprint or Verizon being excited about making a deal with a free calling service? Yeah, I don’t either, unless they cut them in on some revenue, which from what I can tell is not all that much from the majority of Skype users at this point.
But are we forgetting something about what Skype does?
Sure it is a calling service that connects computer users to landline users, but its also a video and chat service that is millions of users strong.
Instead of (or in addition to) fighting with the telecoms, Skype should persue improvements in it’s video and chatting capabilities. Better connection quality, for instance would draw even more users to it’s service and expand it’s reach.
And down the road, once mobile device companies catch up with their technology, Skype should be the first company to offer video-to-video mobile chatting via cellphone. It’s going to happen eventually and Skype has a head-start in users and technology that it can use to it’s advantage.
Managing that adaptation is the true challenge for Skype. It has to take the larger picture into account and move to be there first when mobile networks become capable of streaming video reliably.
And they’d better watch out because you know Google has already set it’s sights on this future vision… and probably some other applications for mobile video we haven’t even thought of yet.
Stay on the ball Skype. Don’t settle for integrating with wireless… improvise something better. It will be better for all of us in the long-run.
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