Heard the one about Cisco acquiring Skype? It certainly makes for sexy rumor mongering, but to hear Skype tell it, there are other priorities taking center stage: not only is the popular VoIP service preparing for an IPO, it's also making good on a long-held promise to fully embrace the channel.
The Cisco rumor came from TechCrunch's Michael Arrington Monday, citing what he described as "one of our more reliable sources."
"Skype does not comment on rumor and speculation," said a Skype spokesman to CRN.com Monday, in an e-mail response.
Rather, it's Skype's month to focus on an all-out push into business that began years ago and in September will see the formal launch of Skype's channel partner program.
It took another key step this week. Skype on Monday officially released Skype Connect 1.0 out of beta -- an updated version of what was formerly known as Skype for SIP. Skype Connect 1.0 allows users to connect Skype to IP-enabled PBX or unified communications systems and make outbound and receive inbound calls using Skype rates and functionality.
"We want to complete the circle here, and obviously create new confidence in the market and the channel partner arena," said David Gurie, general manager and vice president of the Skype for Business unit, in an interview with CRN Monday. "We think the market is going to react to this positively."
According to Skype, Skype Connect, which was launched in beta in March 2009, now has more than 2,400 active global customers. It's certified to work with PBX and UC systems from Cisco, Avaya, ShoreTel, SIPfoundry, Siemens and Freetalk, and can also connect older PBXes using PBX gateways from VoSKY, Grandstream and AudioCodes. Skype usage by a company is managed through a web-based tool called Skype Manager, and over the past year, Skype has also added various support features -- including real-time Skype customer service chat -- as part of that Manager.
Gurie said that Skype has spent a lot of time learning how business customers are using the product, and the interest level has only continued to rise. The role of solution providers in integrating Skype in existing infrastructure -- as well as evangelizing its benefits as a VoIP alternative -- will be crucial to that growth.
Gurie acknowledged that businesses are still concerned about security and about managing Skype use among their employees. One of the company's most effective tools, he said, is an administrator's guide used for answering common questions and what Gurie calls "misperceptions" about the service.
"It usually goes like this: customers come, they say, we use Skype at home and we love it, and we want to adopt it but we are still concerned," he said. "We talk about the guide and for the majority, after that there aren't more questions, and then we can get into tools to manage and develop Skype in an effective way. People want to use this."
Skype on Aug. 9 filed a form S-1 with the SEC, indicating it plans to offer $100 million in shares and expects to be traded on the Nasdaq. According to the filing, both Skype's subscribers and revenue are significantly up year-over-year, but its profits, at least in the first half of 2010, are down, and only about 6 percent of its overall "average monthly connected users" pay for the service.