Skype Unveils New Features For Business - InformationWeek

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Skype Unveils New Features For Business

The company augments its service with VoIP call management and other features to help bolster its underperforming bottom line.

One day after eBay CEO Meg Whitman admitted that the financial performance of the company's Skype operation was disappointing, the company's voice-over-IP unit has updated its Skype for Business offerings.

The new features build on SkypeOut (inexpensive VoIP calling to public switched telephone networks) and SkypeIn (incoming calls from public networks). Skype's bread-and-butter free Skype-to-Skype calling also remains in place for business users.

Discussing eBay's financial report Wednesday, Whitman said of eBay's Skype operation: "While Skype continues to experience stellar growth in terms of its user and adoption rates, the monetization efforts we outlined at the time of the acquisition are not developing as quickly as we had hoped."

In its report, eBay said Skype had produced $195 million in revenue during 2006. While Skype revenue lagged behind eBay's hopes, Whitman said she was pleased with the tripling of registered users to 171 million. She pointed to a 164% revenue burst to $66 million in the fourth quarter over the year-earlier quarter as hopeful evidence of new revenue growth for Skype.

New Skype for Business features include a simpler installation procedure that lets users deliver the calling service to multiple computers across corporate networks. Other changes include an online business control panel to help users manage VoIP calling and allocate various Skype credits.

Skype said it's working with partners to develop new business productivity tools, including features for a Web conferencing service and a viewing technology that enables users to share applications on their PCs.

The company has been adding costs to various plans and features in recent months. For instance, U.S. and Canadian subscribers are now charged $30 a year for unlimited calls in North America. Whitman said the company is considering instituting pricing for certain kinds of international calling.

Purchased for $2.6 billion in 2005 amid much fanfare and hopes it would be quickly integrated into eBay, Skype has gained ground slowly and still hasn't been deeply integrated into eBay's auction site.

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