by Imran Ali

Embrace! Extend! Exterminate! Skype continues to delight with its de-pantsing of traditional telco business this round, the premium-rate call business.

This week saw the beta release of Skype Prime for Windows, enabling Skype users to quickly setup and operate premium-rate voice and video services. So what does this mean...

  • The ability for professionals (accountants, lawyers, doctors, nurses etc) to address micro-markets, too small to otherwise bill.

  • The potential for eBay reputations to help filter and sort reputable Prime service providers.

  • The ability for me to launch a Family CTO hotline, finally monetising my extended family 's technical support calls!

  • An eruption of SoVoIP (Sex-over-VoIP) as the Long Tail of Pornography unfurls? (eugh), I just put that bullet after one about mothers on maternity (I hope there's no crossover!)

  • Provide professional mothers on maternity leave, the ability to practice their profession in an ad-hoc but perhaps lucrative manner.

  • Turn the tables on telesales - I'll happily give out a premium-rate 'Junk-Calls' number to anyone who wants to sell me stuff! Hmm, I wonder if I could put together a mashup of Prime and Summer Bedard's The Human Race...?

Unfortunately, Skype seems to be taking an extraordinarily large slice (30%!!) of each transaction for simply connecting and billing a call. Clever users could simply make a Paypal transaction and place a regular Skype call, minus the usurious fee!

The competitive impact of Prime is likely to strike dread into the likes of Wengo, Ether and Ingenio. They can likely compete on pricing, but Skype's superior reach and integration with Paypal (and perhaps eBay?) makes for a compelling proposition. Hoever, with Google Apps gunning for small businesses, I wonder if we'll see GTalk evolve into this space too?

Nevertheless, Skype Prime's notion of a 'global expertise marketplace' appears to compliment wider eBay and Paypal strategy and at the same time underlining the transformation of premium voice revenues from time+distance to signaling+presence+availability.

More coverage at TechCrunch, Interconnected and our own O'ReillyGMT.