eBay Buying Skype? I'm Scratching My Head

Rob Hof

Another day, another report about the Internet voice startup Skype maybe getting bought for billions of dollars. But eBay? It sure seems a stretch to me, as it does to other folks, like Om Malik and McGraw-Hill's own Scott Kessler of S&P. With eBay's business humming again, it's not as if it's desperate to get into an entirely new business, as some of the coverage suggests. eBay has been on a buying spree, but always pretty directly related to e-commerce.

Sure, there are some interesting possibilities to use Internet voice calls to connect buyers and sellers on eBay's marketplace more directly. But eBay doesn't need to spend $3 billion to do that. Otherwise, it's tough for me to see a strategic fit--certainly not anything like its last really big bet, the online payment service PayPal.

Of course, this business has endless surprises. So surprise me: Got a better idea why eBay would buy Skype?

UPDATE 2: John Battelle thinks it makes sense simply as a way for eBay to get new customers. Say what? It's hard to imagine any customer of Skype hasn't tried eBay yet--at least in the U.S. and probably in many places abroad as well--so what new customers is eBay going to get via Skype that it hasn't already? Then there's the math. Divide $3 billion by Skype's 52 million users (ALL of them, which would seem a big stretch for eBay to capture), and you get about $58 a customer. Doesn't sound like an eBay bargain to me. But I'm all ears....

UPDATE: Some interesting conjecture in the Comments, below. Also, a lot of smart people are opining on VC Fred Wilson's blog. Check out billg's, especially. No time right now to expound upon them, except this: Yes, Skype clearly could bring some interesting new capabilities to eBay that I hadn't thought of. But for $3 billion or anything close to it? There have got to be much cheaper ways for eBay to get to the same place, and quickly too.

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