Monday, August 1, 2005


Robert X. Cringely has a good piece on the potential sale of Skype:

In high tech, the theory goes, advantage lies with the pioneers -- the first company to introduce a product in a new category. And that's true except when it is not, which is typically when the pioneers were too early, too expensive, or too difficult to use. In those cases, a second model generally holds, and in that one, the dominant company is a later entrant who simply does the task far better than it had been done before. For Internet searching, Google is a perfect example of this latter effect, entering the market years after Alta Vista and Excite. And the Google of VoIP looks like it might be Skype, which was almost sold last week to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. for $3 billion.
If Skype has 20 million regular users (there are 2.6 million signed-in right now as I am writing this) and 10 percent of those can be converted to SkypeIn, that's $74 million in revenue with some inevitable SkypeOut volume, too. In short, it is a business. But is it a business worth $3 billion?

Remember in the heady days of the Internet boom when Microsoft paid $400 million for Hotmail and AOL paid $178 million for ICQ, neither of which had revenue or even a HOPE of revenue?

Yeah, but that was then and this is now, and $3 billion is a LOT of money. What makes Skype worth so much?

The big difference between Skype and Hotmail or ICQ is that Skype threatens existing, highly profitable franchises. As free e-mail, Hotmail may have threatened paid e-mail services, but there were no hugely profitable paid e-mail services. And ICQ threatened nobody. But Skype absolutely takes money out of the pockets of existing telephone companies. And since the value of a telephone subscriber is generally a known quantity, the value of an active Skype customer can be at least guesstimated.

If Skype really has 20 million active users and the company is worth something near $3 billion, then the market value of a Skype customer is $150.
(full article)

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