WSJ's gadget titan Walt Mossberg reviews Skype 2.0 and predicts it is ready to blast into the mainstream. Along these lines, I spoke with an experienced Internet CEO yesterday who runs two small companies, both of which are Skype-only, neither of which has a single land-line phone.
Skype is doing what it needs to do to keep VOIP synonymous with Skype (a strategy whose wisdom is nicely illustrated by the power of the equations "Google = search," "Kleenex = tissue" etc), and as long as it can keep doing so, eBay looks smart. What most observers missed about the Skype acquisition, in fact, was that the price eBay paid was irrelevant.
The outcome for Skype is likely to be binary: home run or bagel. In the bagel scenario, eBay will lose 100% (or 5% its market cap). Although not inconsequential, companies have made riskier bets (Time Warner, for example).
In the home run scenario, meanwhile, eBay will make at least 10X. (I don't want to rush to hyperbole here, but this is not a small market opportunity we're dealing with, and the idea that the leading global VOIP player could someday be worth 1/5th of Google's current value, 1/3rd of Verizon's current value, or 1/2 of Yahoo!'s current value is not far-fetched.) Quibbling about whether eBay should have paid $1 billion, $2 billion, or $4 billion, therefore, is a waste of time.
Disclosure: As of today, I own some eBay stock. I didn't buy it. It got "distributed" to me. It turns out that one of the funds I greedily shoveled money into in early 2000 (thirty seconds before the bubble burst) managed to invest in Skype, and the fund just distributed the Skype gains. Hats off to the fund firm! And hats off to me for, in aggregate, losing slightly less than 90% of my invested capital.