skype and nokiaWhatever you say about the materialized synergies of Ebay and Skype after Ebay paid $2.6 billion in up-front cash and eBay stock in 2005 to acquire the IP telephony trail blazer, Skype is currently really making me smile by changing the landscape.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the spiraling global economics outlook, Skype last year earned US$550 million in revenue, a 44 per cent rise, year on year. During the last ArcticEvening that we held in Tallinn, Stem Tamkivi, Skype’s Chief Evangelist, told me during the panel that interestingly Skype actually saw the economic downturn coming quite early as their usage started to rise like it has not risen in years.

Not only that, according to PCWorld, Skype maintains that separate research points to 95 per cent of business users saving money using it, with about a third cutting their phone bills by half. Almost 80 per cent of the survey of ‘Skype for Business‘ users, showed that nearly 80 per cent had seen an increase in productivity and were working closer with their co-workers because of using Skype … [And] the research shows that some 62 per cent of business subscribers were using Skype to better communicate with their customers. Some impressive figures. For us, here at ArcticStartup, this is clear sign of the times.

Mark my words. If it wasn’t clear to you before that IP Telephony was taking its next significant step speeded up by the economic belt tightening in the firms, now it should be crystal clear and I believe we see sigficant even if gradual changes very soon in the way small businesses and individual employees start to exploit this opportunity in cross border communication.

I already personally make 100% of my business calls to Tallinn via Skype. Many firms in Estonia have even a separate Skype button on their website to contact them via Skype. This is surely something we could take upon and start running our business more wisely, not only across the Scandinavia and Baltics, but globally.

Yes, some still claim it does not cut it when it comes to the quality of the sound, and you just can’t afford to have a bad connection when you’re talking to customers. A fair point. But Skype 4.0, should now offer higher quality audio, through ‘super wideband audio’ and a new bandwidth manager for video calling.

And we’re not alone in our praise. The Finish giant, Nokia, has also made a big move. On Tuesday Nokia announced that they are planning to fully integrate Skype into their devices:

The first Skype-enabled Nokia N97 devices will be rolling out from the third quarter. Using Skype on your S60 device isn’t new, but the level of integration with the service and the device is. Skype won’t be running as a separate application, but actually plugged directly into your contacts…

Congratulations for both companies and especially to the users. I have high expectations and it makes me hopeful seeing Nokia having the balls to stand up to the operators. The same enabler that works for small businesses can do much more for the developing countries, which are exactly the markets where Nokia is strong. This announcement alone could mean a bigger chance towards a higher quality of life over time to many people in developing countries than a whole lot of World Bank projects together. Yes, there’s a long way to go and now for example the WiFi hotspots are few and far in between in the least developed countries, but there’s still a lot of people who can benefit from this from South America to Africa.