The latest edition of Knowlege@Warton features some enlightening comments in an article entitled The Hype Over Skype: Can It Go The Distance. What I found enlightening, and a bit distressing, was how late to the party these supposed “experts” are and how “late majority” their thinking is. For example, marketing professor Barbra Kahn had this profound insight about Skype: “It’s funny the way things grow. Skype just crept along and now there’s this explosion.” Hmmm, obviously the professor is unaware of the classic S-curve that describes adoption of an innovation over time. But no wonder; the professor admits that before commenting on Skype she had only been a user for the past two weeks. But already she has told 6 friends about it. Could that word-of-mouth sharing of enthusiasm explain the explosion of users, which is now heading toward 150 million worldwide?
Perhaps I have been unfair picking on professor Kahn, but all of the faculty quoted in the article come across as deer caught in the headlights. Referring to a service with over 140 million downloads and 40 million active users as a product with a “cult” following is a bit naive. Business professor Gerald Faulhaber weighs in with this observation: “While Skype has gotten significant press coverage, it still remains a techie delight that makes PC-to-PC calls. Whether it can make the leap to the big leagues will depend on shedding its image as primarily a geek thing.” From my own experience with Skype and the people I know who use it, this has gone well beyond a geek thing. I hapeen to agre with professor Kevin Werbach who says, “Skype is an under-appreciated phenomenon in telecommunications.” And his use of the word “phenomenon” is key. Let’s not get sidetracked by looking at Skype as a product, but rather as an early glimpse into how we will be able to decouple the way we communicate from the devices and infrastructure that do the communicating. As I mentioned in a previous post, Rupert Murdoch thinks this glimpse into the future is worth $3 billion.