That’s exactly the question I asked Skype CEO Josh Silverman when he stopped by our office earlier today. “Stay tuned” is all he would say. I tried to ask the question many different times, but he stuck to the standard line. However, he did acknowledge that Skype is very serious about the mobile phone opportunity.
“We need to be on all devices…Skype needs to be everywhere,” he said. While he wouldn’t get into the specifics, he pointed out that, with minimal promotion, Skype for Pocket PC devices has been a big hit — adding up to nearly 7 million downloads. This response is why Skype is looking at all devices such as BlackBerry and iPhone, but not sharing many details. “People don’t want just voice, they are looking for presence and chatting,” Silverman said. (Video interview below the fold.)
I recently met with senior officials from “3” which operates a 3G network in the UK (among many other countries) and they pointed out that the data revenues and usage of their network was much higher on phones that were purpose built for Skype. On a more personal note, I use the iSkoot client on Nokia phones to make Skype calls, though there is nothing I want more that a Skype client for the iPhone. (When we wrote about an alternative solution to make Skype work on the iPhone, readers showed quite a bit of interest in the service and it was dugg about 1650 times.)
Silverman, who was formerly the CEO of Shopping.com (an eBay company), took over the CEO job from co-founder Niklas Zennstrom in February 2008 and since then has been focused on learning about the job. He goes into the details in a video conversation that we taped and will post later today. We talk about the beta of Skype 4.0, the eBay relationship and the Skype-killer client being plotted by telecom operators amongst various things.
Silverman said that before he took the job, it seemed to him that the telecom revenues were going away fast. On the job of course, he has found that telecom-related spendging still accounts for 2 percent of the total household income. And despite some dire times for traditional phone companies, the revenues are “showing 5 percent a year growth.”
“[That] tells me people would pay for valuable services,” says Silverman. As prices have declined sharply, people are talking more. Given that Skype’s business doesn’t require the company to spend lot of money on infrastructure, it is easy for the company to squeeze out revenues and profits from the high volume of calls. “From that perspective, that’s still a lot of revenues for us,” he adds. Which is why Silverman thinks that the company has to be careful and not chase e-commerce and advertising revenues: “We don’t want to disrupt the user experience.”