Can MySpace And Skype Work For Business?

"MySpace is looked at as a very poor man's Facebook. It's unstructured, chaotic and more known for predatory precautions with underage users than real application infrastructure," said Narinder Singh, co-founder of Appirio, a San Francisco software development and services firm that focuses on emerging, on-demand technologies. "The combination is less appealing than Skype on its own. I'd see WebEx or other collaboration technologies as more natural and synergistic partners for Skype."

Dubbed "MySpaceIM with Skype," the new alliance was announced today at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, a gathering focused on technologies and business models that exploit new Web frontiers. At this evening's keynote session, MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe and MySpace owner Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp., will address the conference audience.

Skype took a beating earlier this month as its CEO resigned and auction site eBay wrote off an impairment charge of $1.4 billion related to the rocky acquisition, which hasn't resulted in the business synergies eBay initially envisioned. Analysts have suggested that a social networking site like MySpace would be a more natural parent for Skype, but today's alliance falls well short of such a sweeping restructuring. Both Skype and MySpace already offer their services for free; Wednesday's alliance means MySpace users will be able to use the service natively from within MySpace, without downloading any additional software.

Skype's VoIP service, available for free when users make Skype-to-Skype voice calls, could save money for businesses willing to adopt it as a communications infrastructure, but the MySpace integration is unlikely to be an enterprise selling point. Entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, who is quick to adopt low-cost "Web 2.0" tools and networking services when he sees a business use in them, said he has a MySpace profile but rarely makes business connections though it -- for that, he relies on business-friendlier services like LinkedIn and Twitter.

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"The problem is that when people use social networking sites, they're in a totally different mindset. They're in a socializing mindset," said Calacanis, who is CEO of search engine start-up Mahalo.

Appirio's Singh doubts MySpace's utility for professionals, but he does see enterprise potential in Skype.

"We do a substantial amount of work with Service and Support and many call centers that have CTI (computer-telephony) integration," Singh said. "With Skype we see the potential for call centers with integrated voice/chat with very little or no actual infrastructure cost."

Whether or not MySpace gains enterprise ground, solution providers do see a growing role for "Web 2.0" technologies and networking tools.

"Any tool that can enhance the way people communicate with each other is a bonus," said Stuart Crawford, director of business development for Canadian IT services firm IT Matters. "Solution providers must be able to inform their clients that this technology may not be something that they want to have as their main communication strategy, but as a tool in the tool chest of business, it is one of those additional items that can bring a competitive advantage."