Skype is a new P2P VOIP platform from the guys that made Kazaa. For you non-techies, this means a decentralized network which lets people have voice chats over the net. What's new and great about this? Apart from the fact that telcos should start getting being very, very afraid of the replication economy reducing their resources and capabilities to nothing in a matter of months?
Primarily that Skype's strategy is solid. VOIP has been around for a while and not taken off- for a few very simple reasons that are often overlooked by the jargoneering MBAs that have tried to 'exploit' this technology: crap user interface, dropouts, crap sound quality, time lags, firewall problems. All in all adding up to a less than stellar value proposition.
This created a nice big gap in the market which Skype is going to fill. According to my buddies that are using it, it is nothing short of fantastic. Lesson: many tech ventures are by definition differentiated and rich in protected resources. They stumble because what they offer users is a crap product or service from which they derive little or negative value: bug-ridden, unintuitive, and most importantly, not what they promised users they would deliver.
It's interesting to note that the most succesful tech ventures of the last few years have exploited EXACTLY these kinds of market gaps - intuitive usability etc leading to a higher-quality user experience. By no means were Hotmail, Google, Amazon and Ebay first-to-market in a meaningful sense or faced any lack of competition. But one thing they did right was give consumers as much or better than they expected