POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 14, 2011
For those of you who follow financial news, a few weeks ago Microsoft acquired Skype (a company that provides free Internet phone service) for $8.5 billion. I'm not here to discuss the merits of this acquisition (the biggest in Microsoft's 36-year history). What's instructive is Microsoft's perceived value of Skype's services.
I've been a Skype user for many years, and the quality of this technology has vastly improved to the point where it's now used by small businesses to communicate with co-workers and clients around town or around the world.
Is it perfect? No.
However, when it works (which is most of the time) it works quite well. Voice quality can be crystal clear to the point where it's much better than local cell quality and equal to that of a land line. On a bad Skype call, voices can break up, or there will be latency — a lag in the signal, which can make for a stilted exchange.
As they say, you get what you pay for.
That said, one of my colleagues who lives in Porto, Portugal, was just hired as a consultant in Malaysia by the SMR HR Group out of Kuala Lumpur on the strength of a Skype webcam interview. The quality of the call between KL and Porto, which lasted 45 minutes, was reportedly excellent.
One local entrepreneur, Dave Kozuki, CEO of Manoa Innovation Center-based software development company People Bridge, is also a fan of Skype. "We have a bunch of folks working with us who use Skype," Kozuki says, "mostly telecommuting, even though they are on island."
People Bridge employees use Skype's video and audio conferencing tools as well as Google docs, screen sharing and, to some degree, video to collaborate effectively.
Why does Kozuki's company use Skype even though they all live on Oahu?
"Sometimes, driving from Ewa to MIC (Manoa Invention Center), UH or Kaimuki, is a hassle. Gas is so expensive these days, and our time is at a premium. If we can do our business using VoIP (voice over internet protocol), so much the better."
Does Kozuki demand that his employees use Skype in lieu of face-to-face meetings? "Not really," says the People Bridge CEO. "This is usually not me suggesting the Skype route; it's coming from people external to my company such as business partners and clients who want to connect with us via Skype both on island and off."
Is Skype for business an idea whose time has come? If your telecom budget is strapped and you're willing to live with an occasional glitch, Skype, warts and all, is a winner.
Mike Meyer, former Internet general manager at Oceanic Time Warner Cable, now runs Islanda, a Managed Cloud Services company, based in Honolulu. He can be reached at email@example.com.