Andy continues to dig for dirt on Skype. In this lengthy post he reveals his talents as a full blown investigative reporter! The integration problems I speculated about previously seem to be real. I would imagine that these are unavoidable, in any merger. But Andy’s right that it’s going to take a close relationship between top management in the UK and top management in the US.
As a result of Andy’s post, I went back and reread Om’s post on the Skype 2.0 beta. One point Om makes is that Skype continues to gobble up ideas that independent developers bring to the table:
The Video calling feature seems great, except when it starts getting mass adoption, it will start to choke the upstream part of your broadband, and for some odd reason that really makes incumbents mad! It also raises some crucial questions about the future of independent developers. As Skype continues to subsume great ideas implemented by its developer community, is it running the risk of alienating the very community that made it great. Today three companies that offer Skype plugins get impacted – Video plugin maker Festoon and DialCom that offers Video4IM. Skype now offers a new Microsoft Outlook toolbar which impacts another independent developer, the Skylook.
This is the perennial problem every platform maker faces — how to enhance the platform while impacting ISV’s the least. A stark example of this would be Microsoft’s inclusion of IE in Windows. At the time, the Mac had a browser called Cyberdog, and IBM had WebExplorer for OS/2. Windows, without a browser, was simply uncompetitive. We knew it, and we licensed the Mosaic code base from Spyglass in the fall of 1994. Then the phenomenon called Netscape happened. So, should Microsoft have remained uncompetitive because an ISV had already implemented the feature?
If you intend to be an independent developing software for a platform you don’t control, then you need to be constantly vigilant about what the platform maker might do. Some companies have successfully executed this strategy for years — Symantec is a great example. Symantec is so valuable to Microsoft that Microsoft routinely consults them on all new major OS features. This is especially valuable to Symantec because they get to see competing features long before those features are released, which provides ample opportunity to build competitive new features.
And similarly, the platform vendor needs to ensure that early information and builds are available to the ISV community. In the case of this video release, Skype should have released the video components to developers early, and solicited feedback on API’s etc that would have increased the value of video to the ISV community, rather than compete directly. It’s a small, but important, step in building a thriving ISV community.