Speculation that eBay wants to offload Skype

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Tom Keating
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Speculation that eBay wants to offload Skype

According to The Times of London, rumors are that eBay wants to sell Skype after paying $2.6 billion to acquire Skype back in 2005. I wrote back then a few times that I thought eBay overpaid for Skype.

Let's assume the rumors are true. Who would be a potential buyer? Microsoft? While Microsoft would be an interesting buyer, they just laid off 5,000 employees. Laying off 5,000 people only to turn around an shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for Skype just doesn't make sense.

Who else in the tech sector might be plausible then? Of course the obvious answer is Google, but even they had a terrible 4th quarter and are rumored to have cuts/layoffs in the works. Besides, what would Google do with Skype? Google already offers Google Talk, even though it doesn't nearly have the penetration that Skype does. Google also loves standards and hates proprietary software/hardware with a religous zealotry. So buying Skype, with it very proprietary software architecture would be an anathema to Google.

Still, Skype could finally give Google a huge userbase in IP communications. I guesstimate at most Skype is worth maybe $250 million, but I'd have to run the numbers again. I honestly haven't looked at Skype's profit and gross numbers in awhile. But with voice minutes rapidly approaching "free", the real value for whoever buys Skype might be "paid" enhanced services and applications. But then Skype has to be careful not to tick off 3rd party developers by competing against them.

Perhaps the best buyer for Skype just might be Apple. I've written about a possible Apple/Skype partnership before, but it bears repeating:

Perhaps in partnership with Skype, Apple could allow VoIP over a 3G/4G data connection but Apple gets a cut of all revenue generated. Apple tends to change industry paradigms and break new ground. Certainly, Apple enabling a wide-scale VoIP over 3G/4G data connection would be a huge paradigm shift. Doubt AT&T would be happy though - nor other wireless carriers for that matter.

Essentially, Apple and Skype would form their own large-scale worldwide carrier network (using VoIP with termination) without all the fuss of maintaining an expensive carrier infrastructure nor customers dealing with yearly contracts, early termination fees, etc. Apple and Skype would be very competitively priced versus the traditional wireless carriers. Although Skype has been hugely successful, it still primarily is software app that runs on computers. Sure there are plenty of Skype hardware devices, but nothing of the scale that Apple could bring to bear. Apple and Skype working together is the perfect partnership in my opinion and it would send shockwaves throughout the entire wireless industry.

If eBay is indeed shopping Skype around, I think that's great news for Skype. I never thought much of the eBay/Skype deal and I think Skype lost their mojo soon after the deal. I heard the corporate cultures were just too different. It'll be interesting to see is Skype can "mesh" with another tech company's corporate culture.

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