“When I started, we were on a pretty slow product release,” says Neil Stevens, VP of products at Skype. “We were basically a Windows and Mac company.”
Not any more. In the past weeks, Skype launched a massive upgrade to its Android app. Days ago, it launched on the iPad. And last month, it unveiled a massive partnership with Facebook to provide video-chat integration–the company’s first web app. All while skipping the IPO route and getting acquired by Microsoft for $8.5 billion–an acquisition that could put Skype at the heart of tying together Windows, Windows Mobile, and Xbox Live, Stevens says.
It’s all part of what Stevens calls Skype’s newfound commitment to “fast delivery.” And that’s not to mention the company’s newfound confidence.
In just a week since launching on the iPad, Skype is hailing it as a huge success. “The Skype iPhone app we had originally was huge–this adoption has been even faster,” Stevens says. “This has by far been the fastest adopted new app we’ve ever launched.” He adds that Skype is currently the top downloaded app in roughly 98 or 99 app stores around the world. “It’s No. 1 across the planet,” Stevens says.
On Facebook, Skype is already ramping up access to the service from 1% to 10% in the next week or so–a gargantuan increase on a network of 750 million users, and a true sign of Skype’s belief in its products’ social potential and its infrastructure’s strength.
According to Stevens, it’s because no one can do what Skype does–not even Apple or Google. “I don’t think anyone can handle the scale of video [that we do],” he says. “Even FaceTime is not very big–nowhere near the scale that we are. Even Google+ is still small–the amount of video calls that are happening are probably minute.”
Requests to Google for specific numbers on video call usage weren’t immediately answered. But there’s no doubt Google+ is growing fast, attracting more than 25 million users after just one month in the wild. And while there’s no telling how many of those users take advantage of video calling, many media outlets have pegged its video-chatting service as one of the network’s most appealing features.
Skype, though, handles 175 million connected users who making about 200 billion minutes of calls per month, across PCs, smartphones, tablets, and TVs.
And as much of a competitor Google is becoming in the space–with Google Talk, Voice, Plus, and the addition of phone calls in Gmail–Skype isn’t letting Google set the pace for its innovations and strategy. To wit: When Google+ launched with Hangouts, a feature that lets users group video-chat, Skype didn’t bite when integrating with Facebook. Many see Hangouts as an advantage for Google+ over the Skype-Facebook partnership–The New York Times referred to it as “Google’s killer app.”
To Stevens, however, Hangouts is mere novelty. “Far and away,” he says, “the first thing people wanted was two-way video.”
“The next thing we’re going to build: calling capability on Facebook, so that any phone number you see anywhere on Facebook–in a user profile, with an advertiser, a friend’s post, whatever it is–you can call that number,” Stevens continues. “Then from there, we’ll evaluate what’s next. I don’t think group video the highest priority.”
In fact, he says that while Skype offers its own group-video solution (outside of its Facebook partnership), the product has only a fraction of the users that make two-way video calls. Video sharing, video recording, and video streaming all have higher use-cases than its Hangouts-like service, he says. “The group thing? It remains to be seen how big it can get.”
When asked whether Google ever approached Skype for help rolling out Google+ video-chat service, Stevens immediately says no.
“They’ve got their strategy, and we’ve got our own,” he says. “They probably see us as a pretty big competitor now.”
[Image: Flickr user aye_shamus]