Skype Debuts Formal Channel Partner Program

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Robin said the role of partners in evangelizing Skype will be critical, especially given what David Gurle, general manager, Skype for Business, told CRN last week were "misperceptions" about the service. The perceived lack of control, Robin said, is just plain wrong.

"Everything can be held within the Skype Manager," he said. "You've already got Skype being adopted -- people tend to use it personally -- and the IT administrators and the network administrators say, I've got all these Skype users and they're out of control. Well, now we've got the tool, which is Skype Manager, but we need the channel to deliver the message, and work symbiotically."

Skype's channel program will be s U.S.-only at launch, and for the time being, Robin said, only have one tier of partnership.

"We don't believe it's an an advanced enough stage to have more than one," he said. "Maybe it'll be something we do, but for the moment, we've got to keep it simple."

Patrick Carley, CEO of Precedent Technologies, a Stockbridge, Ga.-based solution provider, is one of Skype's existing 20 U.S. channel partners, and said what appealed to him is being able to use interest in Skype as a business conversation.

"Skype is a well-known brand and I've used it personally for years," Carley said in a statement e-mailed to CRN. "I believe Skype's business solutions appeal to our diverse client base -- be it smaller companies that are just getting started and need to watch their infrastructre costs closely or larger companies who may be interested in using Skype to supplement their international communications."

The program arrives just as Skype prepares to make its initial public offering (IPO). Skype on Aug. 9 filed a form S-1 with the SEC indicating it plans to offer $100 million in shares, and that both its subscribers and revenues are significantly up year-over-year, but its profits in the first half of 2010 are down, and only some 6 percent of its "average monthly connected users" pay for the service.

Skype's popularity -- it boasts an average of 124 million users a month, worldwide -- have also made it an acquisition target. Former owner Ebay unloaded a 65 percent majority stake in Skype to private investors last fall, but late last month came rumors that Cisco would make a play for Skype in advance of its IPO.

Skype has been something of a cinderella story in communications IT since it launched in 2004, and according to TeleGeography Research, it accounted for 13 percent of all international calls in 2009. It faces new competition, however, from similar IP calling services, especially Google Voice.

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