Skype Becomes a Money Mover
The new service is a mash-up of Skype VOIP and eBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY) ecommerce application PayPal. Together the two make something like Western Union for the VOIP Age. "This is brewing in the Skype oven and will come out very shortly," Zennstrom said.
Zennstrom brought along a few screenshots of the new app. When Skypers open up their soft client, one of the front page menu choices will soon say "send money." Once clicked, the user signs in, identifies the Skype user to which money will be sent, enters an amount and sends. The money is then transferred from one user's PayPal account to the other's. (See Skype Keeps Growing.)
The service seems targeted at the quickly growing population of VOIP-using immigrants who regularly send money earned in the U.S. back to family abroad. "A lot of people who are using Skype have friends and family on the other side of the planet; this will allow them to send money home," Zennstrom said.
Skype's parent, eBay, has been looking for ways to make Skype a bigger money maker during 2007. Send Money will be Skype's third major move toward that end in the last month. (See Skype Feels Pressure to Pay Its Way and EBay Reports Q4.)
Skype recently announced a Google-like "SkypeFind" service that spits out local business listings and adds click-to-call functionality. (See Skype Intros SkypeFind.)
The new "Skype Prime" service allows users to charge for inbound calls. Zennstrom cited one Japanese Skyper who charges his clients to call in and practice speaking English. Another user operates a support like for people upgrading from Windows XP to Vista.
Zennstrom says Skype had 171 million users at the end of 2006. He says more than half a million have now downloaded the Skype client.
Zennstrom threw this zinger Vonage Holdings Corp. (NYSE: VG)'s way concerning the price of Skype. "It's about a tenth of other players," Zennstrom said. "We don’t spend millions of dollars a year acquiring new customers; our own user base has enabled it to grow so we can offer cheap prices."
— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading