WASHINGTON, June 14 (UPI) -- Having paid a small fortune for Skype, eBay is finally prepared to make use of its purchase.
The online auction house will debut its Internet calling service provided by Skype from Monday in 14 of some of its highest-priced categories, including cars, jewelry, real estate and GPS devices as well as popular collectors' items such as "Lost In Space" collectibles.
"Skype can facilitate transactions on eBay, especially in higher-priced categories," said Meg Whitman, eBay's chief executive, in a speech to shareholders at their annual meeting in Las Vegas Tuesday.
Certainly, hopes are high among eBay executives to make its deal with Skype work. After all, the company paid $2.6 billion for the Voice over Internet Protocol service provider last October, with the possibility of making further payments based on Skype's performance, even as many industry analysts remained uncertain just how the auction house would be able to justify such a steep bill for the Luxembourg-based provider. Granted, Skype continues to be the single-biggest provider of VoIP, even though it only started up three years ago, with more than 100 million subscribers worldwide, and available in 27 languages. Yet given that much of its services are offered free of charge, its sales in 2005 reached only $60 million.
As of next week, those who are listing to sell a product in one of the big-ticket items on the site will be able to add a "Skype me" button on their product list, so that potential buyers can talk to them directly free of charge about the goods on offer, how it would be shipped, and any other questions that might arise. It is also expected to reassure customers about their purchase and decrease the possibility of fraud, such as a fake diamond ring or a lemon of a used car. To date, all such exchange of information has been done via e-mail, rather than by phone.
For its part, eBay is betting that adding on the latest Skype function will encourage people to buy and sell pricier items online, which means that the company will be able to make more per transaction in addition to luring in a new group of customers. Meanwhile, eBay signed an agreement with Internet giant Yahoo! last month to integrate its Skype functions into Yahoo!'s Web sites and be available in conjunction with Yahoo!'s own Internet phone service.
"We believe that Skype will enhance the way that people communicate and trade on eBay, especially in high involvement and high-price categories," Bill Cobb, president of eBay North America, said in a statement.