Skype: Interop is a Waste of Time

by Dave Michels

Ecomm is a fantastic conference (for telecom propeller heads). This year I was only able to do a fly-by. However, the organizers are starting to post videos.

Jonathan Christensen of Skype discusses the latest release of SkypeKit, an SDK for real time communications. SkypeKit is primarily targeted at consumer electronics manufacturers to embed Skype into a wide variety of products – car navigation systems, baby monitors, televisions, etc.  It allows manufacturers to leverage “all of Skype’s functionality” without building infrastructure. The kit contains binary run-times ported and optimized for multiple processors and operating systems.
The first part of this video Jonathan talks about the disruption of communications that the Internet heralded- any to any device and a whole new array of devices being connected. The old infrastructure was rigid: dumb devices with a narrow-band voice connection. The internet offers a “new infinitely variable web.” He rejects the notion of a migration or evolution, or a new role for the dumb terminal we call phones. Jonathan says: “It is not an evolution, it’s a disruption.”
He may be right, he stated that Skype transmits 6 months of video every minute. Wow!
After Jonathan finishes the presentation, he takes questions from the audience. Two in particular stood out.
At about 11:30, Steve Sokol from Digium asked about PBX integration options with SkypeKit. Allow me to paraphrase the Skype position on this: No, that’s not allowed. If you want to connect a stupid narrow-band PBX [Asterisk is not] to Skype, it has to be through a stupid narrow-band SIP connection known as Skype Connect. Don’t even think about bringing the future [SkypeKit] to the past [PBX]. Weren’t you listening? It’s not an evolution, geez… 
At 17:44 a question is posed around Skype interoperability. No need to paraphrase here, I will provide the direct quote.

What we are not excited about is people building interop. It is not because we don’t want them to build interop or have interop, it’s just that it is a waste of time.”

So much for the “infinitely variable web.”  I agree that Skype is amazing and it fairly earned the title of “mega huge disruptor,” but I am not convinced it will retain that title with such a closed approach.