Silicon Valley Insider speculated Friday that Ebay may be looking to sell Skype, a thought that was developed further by both Rich Tehrani and Andy Abramson. It certainly would be an exciting move at a time when money is not exactly flowing freely. The potential buyers mentioned are essentially any big tech company with enough cash to do it without much financing help.
Valuing Skype has always been difficult. The company was sold to Ebay largely on the hype, at the time Skype’s innovative was changing the face of voice worldwide far beyond the scope of its revenues and actual earning power. Now, a few years later, the company has in fact quietly outdone other VoIP plays like Vonage and actually has shown considerable earning power, but the innovative punchline is, well, old. Skype has always been an empowering technology, it empowers the individual – whether consumer or corporate. Corporate usage has been substantial, but it has never been successfully harnessed. Put its usage in a cage and Skype stops singing about freedom.
And that’s why I don’t think Ebay is going to be able to unload Skype on another tech company now for any reasonable price. I think each of the potential buyers listed – Google, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, etc – understands better now that Skype’s value to its users is intricately tied to its unharnessable traits. Even if one had a buyer and a seller in the current environment, it would be very hard to find a price. So I’d suggest that if Ebay truly wants to slim down by dropping Skype, they consider spinning it off. Let it fly free.
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