Tuesday, June 14, 2005

So much for conspiracy theories

I suspect there is a high degree of overlap between our readerships, but just in case anyone hasn't seen it, some solid investigative reporting by Om and Andy has apparently smoked out an impending acquisition of Dialpad by Yahoo!. I must say that this doesn't fit with my inane ramblings from Friday night, but it does suggest that, even if Yahoo! is not gunning for Skype in the sense of acquisition, it may be, as Andy suggests, gunning for Skype's market positioning. UPDATE: KABOOM, it's now official! The global voice market has now changed forever. Andy has some additional followup here (this is the sort as-it-happens coverage that the brokers just can't match).

One of my Platinum Club value readers today reiterated a view that Microsoft might be a more natural partner (owner) for Skype (and that the earlier Yahoo! story was a ruse), though my preference remains steadfastly in Googleland. I noted with interest that, at the VON show in Stockholm, Niklas Zennstrom explicitly invoked the Google mantra "don't do evil," whereas at VON Europe 2004 in London he referenced Yahoo! as an inspiration for the business model. I'm reasonably sure there's no significance in this, but it's interesting to ponder the philosophy underlying the rhetoric. Whatever the background, perhaps Yahoo!'s move makes a counter-offensive by the other two more likely (as well as the widely-acknowledged shortcomings of one).

As Aswath astutely observes, there is a growing case for arguing that the more "mystical" aspects of Skype do not pose the insurmountable obstacles which we might have once expected. Perhaps Yahoo! creates a Skype/SkypeOut/SkypeIn-like experience in SIP, working off a larger user base, vastly more brand power, huge financial strength, and a different strategic agenda. Maybe it won't be up to Skype's standards in the voice arena, but maybe that doesn't ultimately matter.

From a purely selfish point of view, what I really like about this deal is the fact that, for the past three years I have been warning investors of a potential "attack from cyberspace," in which global internet brands end up co-opting the voice space, and have received quite a few confused looks in response. Today is the validation.

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