I upgraded to the Skype 2.0 client last week and there’s been a noticeable improvement in call quality (for both SkypeOut and Skype network calls). That got me thinking. If Skype can improve their call quality to non-skype numbers (SkypeOut) and really make their call forwarding component work well they have a shot at becoming a serious business communication tool. First consider what Skype already has going for itself and then (farther down) think about how services like Skype are changing what we expect from a business communication tool.
It’s cheap: All voice of internet communication is pretty cheap but for busines there’s also the savings on infrastructure (no pbx and virtually no maintenance and admin costs). The Skype desktop app is almost maintenanc free.
Call quality is good: Skype to Skype call quality is superb. I haven’t called Asia with it yet but calls to friends in Australia are incredibly clear. SkypeOut call quality that is pretty good although there are some rough spots –things seem to be improving with the 2.0 client.
Skype’s large network: It’s big and growing. If the Skype network can become the industry standard business people (especially people doing business internationally) will love the idea of crystal clear free calls to all their customers / partners / co-workers.
Skype can easily offer enterprise grade IM: Without too much work Skype can easily offer an enterprise grade IM service like Omnipod does. Security, usage reporting, and some other features shouldn’t be too hard to add.
And even if Skype doesn’t succeed, it’s popularity in the consumer market will surely have an influence on what business users expect from tomorrow’s business communication tool. I think these features will soon become standard fare for business communications tools:
Managing Voicemail Visually: I don’t think most business people realize how much better it is to manage voicemail visually –not having to navigate tedious audio prompts –not having to manually transcribe and transform nearly every voicemail into an action item in another application or system –being able to instantly hear a message with a mouseclick vs. having to navgigate to it in a pbx phone tree, –being able to organize, sort, and archive voicemails like email or any other type of internet communication system.
Presence: It’s nice to see if a contact is actually available before you make the call. When you are dealing with a partner or co-worker across the world this is especially helpful.
Click to call (larger user network): Being able to simply click on a contact to call them is great. No dialing. No look-up. The size of a service’s user network will be an important consideration in future business comm products. Skype’s crystal clear user-to-user call quality is huge.