Skype Gaining Business Users

Last Updated May 18, 2009 7:17 PM EDT

Skype, the Internet-based telephony company which eBay plans to spin off in 2010, claims it's gaining a new audience -- business users.

Chaim Haas, a spokesman for the company, told me that the proportion of business users as a percent of the total customer base grew from 30 percent to 35 percent from 2007 to 2008. And in case you're wondering, that's not because its user numbers have been tailing off. According to the latest figures reported by eBay, Skype added 37.9 million new registered users in the last quarter, up from 35 million in the previous quarter, and now has 443.2 million users.

Haas said this trend is being pushed along thanks to virtualization, of all things. His reasoning? Virtualization, which creates a layer of separation between physical equipment and software, helps corporate IT departments better isolate and protect critical assets. "Organizations can let users define what they're using because they know they can secure corporate applications and deliver them securely," he told me.

The idea that employees bring tools originally intended for consumers into the workplace isn't new -- it's a phenomenon often referred to as the "consumerization of IT" -- but is usually associated with gadgets like the instant messenger clients employees started downloading to their office PCs in the early 2000s, or the iPhone, which users have forced IT administrators to adapt for corporate use.

But Skype? I find it hard to believe that people would fight for their right to Skype. After all, they've already won the battle for IM and the iPhone, and probably have access to Facebook or any other social network of their choice; few companies are strict about phone usage these days, and organizations watching their telephony dollars are probably considering alternative voice-over-IP (VoIP) systems from enterprise-focused vendors like Cisco, Avaya and ShoreTel.

But Haas insisted that Skype is steadily gaining business customers, mainly thanks executives on the road who discover Skype for personal use and then realize it could help their companies save money. Let me know if that rings a bell for you.

  • Michael Hickins

    Michael Hickins has written about technology and business for BNET, InformationWeek,, eWEEK -- where he was executive editor from 2007-2008 -- The Curator,, Multex Investor, Reuters, and Conde Nast's Hickins is the author of The Actual Adventures of Michael Missing, a collection of short stories published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1991. He also published Blomqvist, a picaresque novel set in 11th century Europe, in 2006. Hickins remains passionately interested in the intersections of business, technology, politics and culture, and endures a life-long obsession with baseball. He is married with two children and lives in Manhattan.