How Skype Plans to Dominate Business Telephony

skype_logoSkype, a division of eBay, is likely to announce tomorrow that the beta version of its Skype for SIP offering will interoperate with Cisco Systems’ Unified Communications 500 system. This follows closely on the heels of similar arrangements struck by Skype with Shoretel and SIPfoundry’s sipXecs platform. In addition, the company is said to be working with Avaya, a major enterprise telephony equipment provider. These are a few of the many moves being made by Skype to expand its business to the corporate market.

Skype for SIP was announced in March 2009; it was criticized by competitors and others for being mostly vaporware and a generally ill-conceived product. Skype, of course, feels otherwise. “There are a lot of companies that are looking for paid and supported versions of Skype,” said CEO Josh Silverman in a conversation last week. “People are using it for in-enterprise video calling.” The company is working on developing an enterprise version and an enterprise license, Silverman explained.

“We are pretty big on video calling,” Silverman told me. The company is putting a lot of resources into building a better video conferencing experience, he said, because he believes that person-to-person video calling is going to be as big as video. That absolutely makes sense because today the definition of communication is constantly changing. In the past, the world was all about voice, then instant messages and now video calling. People are sending messages and status updates via Twitter and Facebook. The communications are now multimodal.

While he wouldn’t get into product specifics, Silverman dropped enough hints about Skype’s enterprise future. “We are working to develop an enterprise software product that is built around productivity vs. simply cost savings,” he said. That’s a very telling statement: At present, Skype’s only utility is that it’s a cheap calling service that can leverage about 480 million subscribers and its ability to buy long distance minutes on the cheap.

One of the reasons Skype is popular with corporate users is because it’s fairly easy to use; making face-to-face video calls for free via Skype is simple. The GigaOM Network uses Skype to conduct most of its business with members of our team who are in remote locations.

Related: Last week, I had a lengthy conversation with CEO Josh Silverman about his plans for Skype in the coming years. In the first part of the conversation, Josh discussed his lobbying efforts to get Skype working over 3G networks.

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