The 20th ITEXPO which began on September 1, 2009 was nothing if not full of buzz and industry news thanks to Skype has been a news-generating machine.
Video clip of the ITEXPO Keynotes
I have rarely seen any company in fact generate so much news I, the unofficial news-generating machine of the event. It is as if the company came out of eBay hibernation and unleashed an assault on the blogging and reporter communities.
Skype Gets Sold
As ITEXPO opened, news of Skype being sold broke. Ebay received $1.9 billion in cash from a group of investors including Netscape and Ning founder Marc Andresen and the value of the company currently works out to $2.75 billion. As a side note, I think I may have been the only person who thought the eBay purchase of Skype for a super-high valuation of about $4 billion in 2005 made sense. What I didn't know at the time was that eBay wasn't going to try to integrate the companies in a serious manner. Yes, it is still shocking to me that the company says there were no synergies between Skype and their core business. Just showing ads for auctions should have generated huge amounts of revenue for the company. Then there is this list of items - most of which were never were acted on. Another option I suggested was to show Google ads on Skype which I predicted could have grown the bottom line by billions.
By now it is well-known that the technology which gives Skype its P2P smarts is actually being licensed by JoltID Limited, a company in control of Skype founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström, two people who left eBay on not quite the best terms and are currently suing the auction leader and if they win they could shut Skype down.
At ITEXPO, the talk was that the Skype acquisition was at a high valuation because there were some behind-the-scenes discussions about the outcome of the lawsuit. Joe Nocera of the New York Times sums up my thoughts about Skype from the show quite nicely.
Since that time Joost said they are removing Mike Volpi from his role as chairman. Joost was also founded by Friis and Zennström and the conflict seems to have been caused by his roles both at Joost and private-equity firm Index Ventures, one of the firms involved in the Skype purchase.
Folks, the last time we had this much excitement in communications was when someone hacked into Paris Hilton's mobile device.
At one time Zennström mentioned to me that before the idea to build Skype he considered launching Joost and that there wasn't enough bandwidth at the time so he started a VoIP company instead. He further mentioned he can see a time when Skype and Joost would integrate with one another. It is unclear if that will ever happen now. In fact the only thing which is clear to me regarding Skype these past weeks is that nothing is clear.
Digium, Shoretel PBX Connectivity
But perhaps that isn't 100% correct, for while the world was digesting the news of Skype being acquired, the company was busy integrating with PBX vendors. At ITEXPO in fact Skype announced Skype for Asterisk Software and shortly thereafter, Shoretel was first to market with Skype for SIP interoperability.
No Extras Credit
But the Skype gift of September news is far from over as last week the company decided to nix its Extras program, leaving many developers hanging. Some like Stuart Henshall had some pretty harsh words to say about the company's developer relations and prominent blogger Om Malik was not far behind.
More recently, Michael Arrington wrote that Skype is looking to embrace developers in its next generation platform.
Out of all the news coming from the largest IP communications software company in the world, I think this last bit is the most mystifying. You see if I were to devise a way to anger as many developers as I could I wouldn't have to think - I would just duplicate what Skype just did. Bloggers, developers and everyone else seem determined to point out how incompetent the company's developer relations are.
At a time when developer programs are all the rage, how can Skype be such a disaster in this area? It is pretty mystifying actually and a massive opportunity missed.
It reminds me somewhat of the missed opportunity the company had with integrating with eBay and rolling our more revenue generating services over the past few years.
In terms of positioning, there are few companies like Skype -- they are still on a massive number of desktops and the software is migrating to the mobile space quite quickly. This soap opera is far from over and as this month has progressed I have found myself watching less and less TV as just keeping up with the day-to-day news at Skype has proven to be quite entertaining.