Skype Journal Test

Friday, September 12, 2008

Josh talks with Om

Om Malik wrote up his interview with Skype CEO Josh Silverman today. Here's his 19 minute interview.


  • 6% of all international calling minutes.
  • $136 million revenue last quarter.

What follows is a very rough and partial transcript of the first half of the interview, starting after generic introductions. Spelling, typos, omissions, and other errors are all mine. Corrections and additions welcome. 

Om: eBay Synergy?

Josh: "Our mission is enabling the world's conversations. We aspire to be is the world's leading communications software company."

Josh: "I think that the communications industry is going through one of the great sea changes of our time. And we'll look back ten years from now at this moment in time and say this is the time when communications transitioned from being hardware to being software.

What i mean by that If you cast your mind back ten years ago, you'll remember that dedicated appliance you had called the telephone. and it was purpose built for voice and it was tied to a network that was purpose built for voice.

if you think about the world we live in today we use these multipurpose computing devices, i don't know about you, maybe 5% of my time on this is spent with voice communications. i do all kinds of other communications with it. if you look at the iPhone, it's not even a communications device. you're checking stock prices or the Internet, watching movies and listening to music. one of the applications you use on that device is around communication.

so communications moved from hardware to software.

it's now part of every device and every device is connected to a multipurpose network called the Internet.

so what that means for consumers is massive amounts of innovation, making communication richer and fuller.

again, going back to when communication was embedded in the hardware, it was only voice. now, if you think about the spectrum of communications, it goes all the way from very short twitter-like communications, in our case we call them mood messages, to chat, to voice, to video, to file transfer and online collaboration; a whole set of different modes you want to talk in, all tied together by some common services. for example one common address book, a common set of presence. and what consumers want and need is that core set of services to follow them from device to device everywhere they are.

we think Skype is uniquely well positioned to capitalize on that. in fact we think that is the future.

just like the train industry did not invent the airplane, the telephony industry is not going to invent the communications business of the future.

Om: I wrote about ten of the telephone companies getting together and building their own client. What do you make of that?

Josh: We welcome competition from all sources.

Om: If you were a betting man, when would you bet will they release a product like that?

Josh: the phone companies have not been known to be world class at building software. when ten of them get together the odds go down a lot.

the great thing about communications being in software is this is going to be a massively competitive industry. and when it's massively competitive the consumer wins.

what we need for that to happen is we need open networks.

and the world that North America lives is in today, where the carriers control the device you can use and the software you can load on the device, consumers are losing big time.

Om: I wouldn't go that far. That's Skype's argument. I don't buy that. Although I agree we're are living in a country where competition is scarce, and where it's almost like an emerging economy as far as broadband and IP networks are concerned.

Being married to eBay seems like a big mismatch.



Josh: One of the interesting things about the communications space is that it is very balkanized. cable providers against the fixed line against the wireless. and any camp you join makes as many foes as it does friends. one of the really unique things about eBay is within eBay umbrella I'm a totally neutral camp, i can work with everybody.

Om: why not just go public? spin it out of eBay? you are profitable, you've got revenues, you have customers, your are growing business like crazy. why not a standalone company?

Om: What should we as consumers be excited about?

So there's three things we're focused on right now at the highest level. Product innovation, paid services, and platform.

On the product innovation side I'd highlight a couple of things.

Skype was not the first company to do voice over the Internet, it was just the first one to make it really easy. while Skype is very easy to use, it's not easy enough. and so a lot of the innovation you should expect from us is making it even easier and even more reliable.

Another big area of focus in product innovation is going to be around video.

Video is going to be the dominant form of communication. now i don't mean that that all calls will be video calls. i think voice and chat will be table stakes and people will make the decision around which application to use based on who delivers the best, most reliable, highest value video experience. so we think video is a great source of differentiation for Skype.

On the paid services side, we have some great paid services. They're just not particularly well marketed. A lot of our users don't know we have them, we haven't named them well, we haven't described the what the value proposition is well. When people find out about them, they're delighted. We just haven't done a good job. So I think there's a lot we can do just to market our current products and services better and bring some new and exciting ones to market.

The last thing I talked about is platform. Skype has historically been a relatively closed community. now, we have created an api that has about 15000 partners working with Skype to build their capabilities into Skype. there's a massive ecosystem of people who want to build Skype into their products and services, from hardware providers who want to build Skype into flat panel televisions or cordless phones to software providers and web sites who want to build Skype in. and we should be working with all of those, we can't win if we're working with all of them one off, so we need to have a really robust platform. obviously, the within platform the area of most importance needs to be mobile.

This is a great start. Let's explore this further.

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