Recently Skype announced the crossing of a benchmark for the Skype Extras program: passing the ten million download mark in just over four months of availability. In the past I have written about a few of their successful partners: Pamela, Skylook, Unyte and HiDefConferencing. According to this press release (and the Skype Extras Downloads report) the number one consumer application is Reallusion’s Crazy Talk for Skype while the most downloaded business application is the Pamela Call Recorder. However, even though they are number 12 on downloads, Skylook has been able to develop a very successful business model through identification of their core customer base market niche and delivering of features they have requested.
During May and June there are one European and two North American events where Paul Amery, Director, Skype Developers Program, and his Developer Program colleagues will be promoting participation in the Skype Extras program:
- Last week’s eBay DevCon Munich
- This week’s keynote presentation by Paul Amery a,t TMC’s Communication Developer Conference
- June’s eBay Developer Conference in Boston
During my visit to Skype’s London office in March I spent a couple of hours with Paul and Lester Madden, Manager of Partner and Development Relations. Our discussion centered around the three primary goals for the Skype Developer Program and how they planned, at a high level, to achieve them. These goals are:
- Building Awareness of Skype Extras
- Addressing the issue of “compete vs complement”
- Ensuring quality of services
Currently the Skype Developer Program has over 40 partners who have developed or are developing third party programs, such as those mentioned above. But, referring to “applications as the value creators” envisioned in the Voice 2.0 Manifesto, there is a multitude of opportunities to embed Skype’s voice and other real time conversation tools across many disciplines. The challenge for the Skype Developer program is not only to build awareness but also to ensure there is an appropriate underlying infrastructure. Within this framework Skype wants to leave space for partners to demonstrate their own individual vertical market expertise while providing significant value-add to their target market(s). The level of interest in participation is shown through their over 4200 developer registrations for email newsletters that accompany the Skype Developer Zone weblog.
Paul and his team plan to build awareness not only through the Skype Extras presence in the Skype client but also through seminars and conferences such as those mentioned above, building a blogger relations program and targeting specific enterprise markets, such as the free Skype for Salesforce in the CRM space which provides an inlet for resourceful partners to access the Salesforce.com customer base.
A second key issue is addressing the “Compete vs Complement” issue. Here the goal is to establish a level playing field where partners can build on their expertise while they bring value-add to the infrastructure provided by Skype. This infrastructure incorporates not only Skype API’s but also promotional programs (Skype Extras Premium) and an e-commerce back end, such as Skype Prime, amongst other activities. Building blocks that address this issue, partially based on feedback from both partners and prospective partners, include:
- Providing roadmaps, both technical and commercial
- Establishing (a) viable and appropriate e-commerce platform(s) to facilitate business transactions
- Clearly identifying and articulating the responsibilities of both Skype and its Partners for participation within the program
Within these responsibilities, both Skype and its partners need to define:
- Level of promotion, not only via the Skype client but also through promotional vehicles such as weblogs and (online) advertising with some sponsored by Skype and others by the Partners themselves
- Revenue sharing levels along with articulating the services provided in return for the revenue split
- Timelines for evolution and maturation of the program
- “Smart Marketing 101”: cost effective marketing using both online and offline tools and event participation
The final goal relates to quality of services. With its reputation for ease of setup and use, as well as robustness, Skype wants to ensure that this philosophy transitions to its partners’ products. The driving goal here is to have products that meet levels of usability and performance built around how users intuitively think and act. To this end we are seeing the evolution of the Skype software certification criteria; user and partner feedback play a large role in establishing appropriate baselines:
We release updated test specifications into production use twice a year — in each January and July. The specifications evolve under the eyes of the entire Skype developer community, and everyone is welcome to contribute their suggestions for improvement.
Of interest during the next few weeks’ events will be the Skype Developer Program’s success in launching and communicating the appropriate initiatives for achieving these goals. Skype Journal will have a presence at both of the North American events.
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