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Skype has been making a number of moves lately designed to advance its business proliferation. The company earlier this year launched Skype for Asterisk and Skype for SIP, and ShoreTel was earlier this month confirmed as the first IP telephony vendor to offer Skype SIP integration.
Earlier this week, Skype announced it had cleared interoperability certification with Cisco's Unified Communications 500 Series for Small Business. That means Cisco VARs can register for a Skype Service Partner Program, and if they pass a certification exam, integrate Skype for SIP in the Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series For Small Business they sell.
A number of VARs contacted by Channelweb.com Friday said they'd be interested to hear more from Skype but didn't have enough details to say if they'd sign up to become Skype VARs.
"I'm not sure what they're going to charge or how they're going to make money, but people have a hard time paying for things that are free," said Ben Berg, CEO and co-founder of Transcom Telecommunications, a Lakewood, Calif.-based solution provider. "I'll need to see what their model is because I have no idea what they're doing yet. It's a consumer product, so I'm not really sure."
Several VARs that specialize in IP communications did say that Skype integration has come up among customers in the past.
"It would be of interest to us, yes," said Robert Keblusek, senior vice president of business development at Sentinel Technologies, a Downers Grove, Ill.-based solution provider. "I've been challenged in the past to see how we can leverage Skype. Not in large volume, because mainly it's been a residential type of product. I think it would be interesting, but the business products would have to be something that has appeal and value-add beyond what's already available."
Skype needs to pitch a channel program around how Skype will enhance existing products such as Cisco voice or Microsoft collaboration products, he said.
"If Skype has a compelling offering, there's definitely room for the channel," Keblusek said. "No one's approached us or anything and I haven't heard about it from any of our existing partners, so it would be new to me. But this could be a great opportunity."
Skype's entry into the channel plays out at the same time Skype and its parent company, eBay, are embroiled in a lawsuit with Skype founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, the owners of Joltid and Joost.
The lawsuits threaten to derail eBay's planned sale of a majority stake in Skype to a group of private investors that includes Silver Lake Partners, Index Venture, Andreessen Horowitz and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board -- a deal that eBay confirmed at the beginning of September for $2.75 billion.
eBay acquired Skype in 2005 for $3.1 billion. The online retail auction behemoth first said back in April 2009 it would attempt to spin Skype off through an initial public offering, but would consider bids that offered "attractive valuation."
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