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What's Next for Mobile? – Apple Should Buy Skype

We’re still thinking about iPhones. There’s been a lot of talk about Snow Leopard, Apple‘s latest OS update which was released last Friday. It’s being touted as more of a “techie” upgrade since there aren’t a lot of new bells and whistles as far as front end functionality goes. It’s also led to some discussion Read more

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Skpe screenshot

We’re still thinking about iPhones.

There’s been a lot of talk about Snow Leopard, Apple‘s latest OS update which was released last Friday. It’s being touted as more of a “techie” upgrade since there aren’t a lot of new bells and whistles as far as front end functionality goes. It’s also led to some discussion about whether it’s still possible to have the kind of game changing OS releases that Apple has had in the past. Apple also has an iPod press event scheduled for later this month and there’s similar debates about what kind of new features they could introduce that would really generate excitement among current iPod owners.

In some ways, Apple is a victim of it’s own success here. We’ve raved before about the terrific user experience most Apple products deliver and the company has done a good job of putting the principles of continuous process improvement into place across multiple product lines. It’s like Roger Federer playing tennis. Any improvement is going to be incremental when the bar is already set high.

So how can Apple generate the kind of buzz that has propelled the company to years of record growth and sales? Like Don Draper said in a recent episode of MAD MEN, they need to change the conversation.

To a certain extent they’re doing this already with a new wave of “I’m a Mac” commercials. But those are really targeted at the Microsoft “PCs are cheap” campaign. No, if Apple really wants to get excited it needs to do something audacious. Something riskier than improving on a proven platform like the iPod or established software like it’s OS.

And the perfect opportunity came up this morning.

eBay is selling Skype.

And if Steve Jobs was on his game he would be picking up the phone right now (or using his computer and not paying for the call). Because he has a unique opportunity here. He’s in a position of amazing power in the mobile industry right now. He’s got the hottest device in the market, an exclusive that is set to expire in a little over a year, and tons of potential suitors wanting access to his product.

What better time to change the game completely? To take a company that has not been optimally managed and marry it’s product to his software.

Picture this. What if Apple created a version of Skype that was optimized for the iPhone? What if they charged $25 a year for download and use of the app. For $25 a year you could  talk free with anyone else who owns an iPhone. What iPhone user wouldn’t buy it? Sure, there’s a current Skype application for the iPhone. But it’s clunky, not at all sexy, and lacks the marketing push Apple could put behind the product. If Apple managed to convince half of the current iPhone users to purchase the product, they would generate $750 million in revenue and push Skype firmly into the mainstream. And they would put another rocket booster under iPhone sales (“Buy the Blackberry and spend $800 a year on cel phone service. Or buy the iPhone and spend $25 a year to talk to other iPhone users”.

Would AT & T be upset. Absolutely. But they would still make a fortune offering a limited service for dialing non iPhone devices. And, if they played their cards right, they could cut themselves in for a piece of the action.

Of course, this news has just broke so it may be as new to the folks in Cupertino as it is to me. What’s your reaction to the Skype sale? What do you think Apple should do next?

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