Whats up eBays Sleeve

By Guy Kewney  |  Posted 2005-09-13 Print this article Print

?"> OK, lets admit here that eBay and Skype are both playing this one close to their chests. Lets admit that yes, its perfectly possible for a rich company to do things with its own stock which wouldnt make much sense if it were spending real dollars.
And lets also admit that, OK, maybe they put a decimal point in the wrong place, and Skype should have been sold for $200 million.
But just for fun, lets assume that Skype and eBay know something we dont. What might that be? The value of a property, said the real estate agent last time I was buying, is "what someone will pay for it." My house in North London may well be bigger than a cupboard in South Kensington, but the fact remains that more people are prepared to pay a million pounds for the cupboard, and therefore, thats what its worth. If you want to buy it, you have to make sure someone else doesnt buy it. Who else might have been thinking of buying Skype? Heck, we went through this some weeks back, and nothing has changed: Its all about location-based marketing. To sell you bagels before you reach the bagel shop, the advertiser needs to know when you step out of the train, off the bus or out of the car park. By the time youre at your desk, its too late. It remains to be seen whether LBS (location-based services) are going to be a commercial success. But if they are, a head start of 45 million PC owners, including an awful lot of early adopters in the comms business, could be worth a lot of revenue. Heres one possible business plan. Suppose you have a targeted advertising system that senses when people are interested in something by reading their e-mail or watching over their shoulders when they go Web surfing. Suppose you called it Advert Sensing, and charged people a small slice of monetary salami each time someone clicked on their adverts. And suppose you controlled the only version of Advert Sensing that also knew when people were about to walk past the bagel shop ... would you be able to sell that service to someone like eBay, do you think? Would eBay be happy to pay you a regular stipend for this service, or would they prefer to buy the only version of Advert Sensing that worked on mobile devices? Yes, I do think Google was interested in buying Skype, and I do think Skype was worth far more to eBay as a purchase than as a service. And where do we go from there? Watch this space! Theres an awful lot more going to happen with instant messaging this year, and a lot of it will be on mobile devices, and mobile phones, in Europe. Contributing columnist Guy Kewney has been irritating the complacent in high tech since 1974. Previously with PC Mag UK and ZDNet UK, Guy helped found InfoWorld, Personal Computer World, MicroScope, PC Dealer, AFAICS Research and NewsWireless. And he only commits one blog—forgiveable, surely? He can be reached at gkewney@yahoo.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.


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