"Fiberlink Communications Corp. has partnered with Skype to advance the next stage in mobile working for enterprises worldwide. Fiberlink, a leading innovator and trusted enterprise partner for secure mobile workforce solutions, today unveiled a strategic partnership with Skype designed to make it easy for companies to offer Internet-based telephony services to their mobile workforce using Fiberlink’s secure mobile access software. [..] Fiberlink plans to bundle Skype’s telephony with Fiberlink’s Extend360™ mobile access software and offer it as a value-added service to its enterprise customers. In addition to this new service offering, Extend360 will ensure higher levels of security during Skype peer-to-peer transactions, protecting against security threats. "
Two things come to my mind:
1. Over the last two years, Skype has slowly built an extensive ecosystem of partners around its client - the right thing to do in an all-IP world where applications are decoupled from the network. I haven't really kept track of all its partnerships, but fortunately they are all summarized on their website: the partnerships are going through the whole value chain: devices (Motorola, Plantronics, RTX Telecom, Buffalo, i-mate), end-user connectivity (Broadreach), wholesale IP connectivity, peering and PSTN interconnection(Colt, iBasis, Level3, Teleglobe, Cable & Wireless, B3G Telecom), consumer-portal services(tom.com), payment services other than credit cards (Moneybookers), co-branding agreements (Hutchison), operating systems (Xandros), etc., etc. And don't forget their API, which opens Skype up to the world's programming community - something Google recognized to do and something Apple and Netscape should have considered doing long time ago.
2. they have moved away from a "one-size-fits-it-all" strategy by simply providing a download link on their website with good faith in DFJ's beloved viral marketing to a segment-driven approach (I couldn't resist using that term...): as mentioned above, Skype has signed co-branding and partnership agreements with companies that offer consumer-oriented IP-based services (e.g. portals, Internet access, mobile access), usually with a geographical focus on IP-literate regions, e.g. Daum in Korea, but Asia in general. They have started addressing the SME segment e.g. with their partnership with CDC Group, which will distribute Skype-branded hardware in their retail stores in Italy (increasingly more IP-literate, one of the very few countries in Old Europe that with FastWeb has a significant FTTH footprint and by the way finally rolled-out in the city where I have my "summer residence", yeah!), and in a second step integrate Skype into CDC's Dexgate VoIP platform. One of Skype's main features and also the main reason that causes quite some headaches for people running corporate networks, the NAT traversal, has been documented in their guide for network administrators (pages 3 and 4) (do read Aswath's post on that one), which should relieve them a little bit of their security headaches and make Skype more acceptable in the corporate world. And the deal with Fiberlink announced today points into the same direction: mobile workforce enablement. They have also gone into vertical markets, take for example the deal with Guillemot Corporation which will bundle Skype with its peripherals for game consoles.
In short, this company has a strategy. And not only that, they seem to be hiring the brains to execute it (see James and Jeff). So what's missing? The cash? Looking at Vonage's recent funding craze, cash for companies with no earnings, no history and no comparables seems to be a low-hanging fruit. Maybe DFJ will do another cash infusion soon, but I would also consider placing bets on Mr. Li Ka-shing, who not only controls both Tom Group and Hutchison Global Communications, but also 3, his mobile unit which needs some traction. Only recently in the Italian TV Show "Le Iene" ("The Hyenae" - French TV has the same show, a mix of investigative journalism, reality TV and sensationalism) it was demonstrated with a mobile phone from 3 how a UMTS data connection could be used to run Skype on a Smartphone and to do voice arbitrage compared to 3's normal voice prices (as I said, increasingly IP-literate..). Maybe somebody has forwarded the clip to Mr. Ka-shing.