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eBay-Skype: The New Kid on the Block -- Consumer-to-Consumer eCommerce Accelerates Real-time Telecommunications
[September 13, 2005]

eBay-Skype: The New Kid on the Block -- Consumer-to-Consumer eCommerce Accelerates Real-time Telecommunications

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View
No sooner did I finish writing a piece on a big enterprise migration to IP-based customer contact technology, when the official confirmation of eBay’s acquisition of Skype showed up on my PC screen. My first reaction was, what’s in it for eBay and what does it mean for the telecommunications market?

The Transient, Consumer-to Consumer Business Communication Market

Whenever we talked about business communications, we always had in mind the traditional, established enterprise, whether an SMB, large company, or SOHO operation, who had a product or service to sell, did business with many customers, and wanted to keep them “loyal” through good customer service. With web-based eCommerce, that business model is further enhanced with the opportunity to both advertise goods and services more efficiently (based on information search technologies like Google and Yahoo), as well as provide convenient access to both self-service customer support and live assistance.  
eBay popularized the expansion of traditional consumer classified ads to virtual on-line auctions between individual buyers and sellers, where there is only a transient relationship established to close the financial transaction and deliver the purchased item. As eBay highlighted in their announcement presentation, their online auctions become communications intensive after a buyer finds what they want online, with 30% of eBay bids taking place in the last two hours and 5 million email messages exchanged between eBay buyers and sellers per day. The former activity is between the eBay application service and buyers, as bidders check the status of the bids and change their bids accordingly.
Since consumers are rapidly becoming more communications mobile, we would expect both such auction communications to become more real-time and “transmodal.”  “Transmodal” means dynamically switching from text to speech interfaces for the eBay service interactions (notifications and responses) and being able to shift dynamically from email to Instant Messaging to a voice connection for the person-to-person contacts.  In the context of the personal contacts for eBay activities, Skype can offer convenient and cost efficient contact access, along with its own version of presence management. In eBay’s words, this kind of capability helps remove “friction” between buyers and sellers, which significantly increases the volume of successful business transactions.
Other Benefits for eBay
Of course, there are other reasons that eBay has given for investing in Skype. In addition to the potential growth of Skype’s basic business model for “VoIP” telephony services, including premium SkypeIn and SkypeOut options, eBay expects to penetrate new global markets for its eCommerce activities. This includes expanding its PayPal business as well. eBay is also targeting the monetization of online ads by using Skype to initiate “click-to-call” IP phone contact that would be paid by the advertiser, taking away business from the traditional toll-free “800” number providers.
These are exciting times as the new, multi-modal communication technologies, the web information network, and wireless mobile devices converge and change the way consumers do business.
What Do You Think?
Is eBay going to become a serious player in the consumer telephony market, competing with the RBOCs and carrier services? How will the service providers compete for the market segment application business of transient buyers and sellers?  Will the backers of SIP be threatened by eBay’s support of Skype for presence management?
Let us know your opinion by sending them to [email protected]
Heads Up for Enterprise Messaging Managers!
There is an opportunity for enterprise technology managers to focus on the directions that business messaging will be taking. The convergence of voice and text messaging (including instant messaging and wireless text messaging), sometimes labeled as "unified messaging," means that enterprise organizations will soon have to integrate both their communication application technologies, as well as their internal user support for email, IM, and voice messaging, and telephony activities.
For the first time in the industry, two independent enterprise associations, one originally focused on voice messaging and telephony, the other on email, have scheduled their conferences at the same time and location. This will enable them to conduct joint program sessions of mutual interest, including three "virtual" highlight sessions that will be open to the online public.
The “virtual” sessions will have leading messaging technology providers discussing key issues of technology and market direction, including:
Provider Visions - The messaging industry’s vision for where and how multi-modal communication convergence is really going and how enterprise messaging will interoperate with IP telephony.
Contact Mobility – The impact that wireless handheld devices and presence management will have on multi-modal communications efficiencies.
Migration and Administration – This session will focus on migration planning and changes in organizational support of converged, multi-modal communications.
Invited messaging providers include:
  • Avaya
  • Nortel
  • Siemens
  • Microsoft
  • AVST
  • Adomo
  • Interactive Intelligence
  • NEC
  • Mitel
  • IBM Lotus
The International Association of Messaging Professionals (IAMP), formerly the Octel user's group, and the Open Group's Messaging Forum, formerly the Electronic Messaging Association (EMA) will be meeting in Houston, TX on October 16-20. The "virtual" sessions will be panel discussions on converged communication applications by the leading industry messaging providers and by enterprise end users on the challenges of migrating to converged communications and unified messaging.
For further details on the conference program and details on the “virtual” session issues, go to the IAMP web site at
Coming to L.A. Internet Telephony Conference? Attend my panel discussions!
If you are coming to TMC’s Internet Telephony show in L.A. (October 24-27), you will be interested in hearing my industry panelists answer some hard questions about the future of enterprise “communication applications” and the role of presence in unified communications.
For details on the conference, go to

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