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Death of the Small Business IP PBX?

Last post before bed.  Over lunch today I turned to my business partner Howard, and asked "Why would a small business ever buy an IP PBX if they could reach their customers with Skype?  Within a year or two, all you will need is a Skype-In number, and a basic Skype-enabled CRM to do business anywhere in the world."

Martin Geddes on Telepocalypse has written a long, but insightful post on the future of Skype and Ebay.  His two big predictions:

Telepocalyptic prediction #1: We’ll see a “merchant edition” of Skype within 12 months, and this will be indirectly a paid-for service to eBay sellers. Skype becomes the “PBX for micro businesses”, and it’s the seed from which eBay can grow a bigger assault on the moribund PSTN application, particularly the 800 number market. The economic driver will be increased conversion rates, larger transaction sizes, lower transaction defect rates (e.g. wrong address), and increased up-sell during closure. Only an advanced multi-modal client can achieve these things.

Telepocalyptic prediction #2: Within 18 months, Skype will be giving away ougoing PSTN calling to places with low call termination charges, in exchange for people adopting the Skype/eBay identity and proffering personal data. eBay needs to grow Skype as fast as possible to keep as much calling on-net as it can. There comes a point when your network effect means you can suddenly drop the price for a wide range of vital services to zero (think: search, browsers) in order to support an adjacent business.

Absolutely right on. 

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Aswath September 14, 2005, 9:13 am

    Most of the features of PBX can be grouped under one of two categories – incoming call handling and sharing among a workgroup. The latter can be done by the end-points among themselves. But the former requires a central point. I feel this breaks Skype architecture. For example, you mention Skype-enables CRM. If it is a central entity, then I submit to you that it is not Skype anymore. It may be a hosted IP PBX and is labelled Skype. But it is not “Skype”.

  • Alec September 15, 2005, 4:27 am

    True, but there are people already using the Skype Call Forward feature to send calls from a single Skype client to multiple others, effectively distributing an incoming call to multiple workgroup members.

  • Tim Welch September 16, 2005, 5:42 am

    Skype call forward doesn't resolve the incoming call handling dilemma. Nor does it resolve numerous other "one to many" scalability issues that will be encountered by Skype, which is as Aswath mentions a pure point-to-point solution. Routing calls made to a single number out to tens or hundreds of endpoints and handling that call through non-answers, forwards, etc. cannot be readily achieved by the Skype we know today. Skype also needs to address the mobile user; until a call to your Skype-In number can be routed to a cell phone – quickly and efficiently – you will not see mass adoption of the service as the sole communication method to small or micro business. The last issue is reliability. We all want to say that the Internet is very stable and reliable, but a small or micro business on an ADSL connection is at the mercy of their service provider and do not have the "5 nines" uptime needed for constant communications. Home wireless connections to a mobile Skype-enabled wi-fi phone can be disrupted by little Johnny firing up the microwave to heat his pizza pocket – and the important call to your main client is gone. It will be five years or more until Skype and its like will be able to match the reliability and instantaneous use of a cell or office PSTN phone – plain and simple.

  • tropicaljantie June 25, 2006, 7:05 am

    "Why would a small business ever buy an IP PBX if they could reach their customers with Skype?"

    You are all dreaming. No business wants a skype icon on all their computers in their office. Employees will piss away globally their time. There is no skype for business version. It is not manageable, there is no accountability and nobody (unless you are a geek) will sit with a headset in the office to get a call or be attached to some usb-phone. On top of that no b2b vendor will love to bring skype in the office, since they can't easily make money with it. Skype does not offer any guarantees also. Who wants an Ebay / Advertising phone linked to the office – system ? On top of that there are security problems and network management issues. Ask any IT-manager. The current Skype is for consumers and for Ebay. Get real.

    Maybe it will change, but not yet. Skype has been called a freeloader in many situations too…

  • tropicaljantie June 25, 2006, 11:05 am

    and who is going to the support anyways ? you ?

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