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Ebay Hypes Skype Integration

Online auction powerhouse eBay plans to integrate Skype, its $2.6 billion Voice over IP investment, into more than a dozen categories of listings.

From cars to cameras, a "Skype Me" button will allow buyers and sellers to stay in contact.

Last year, eBay bought Skype, insisting the purchase would enhance the online marketplace. Since then, the online auction house has looked for ways to integrate the Internet phone company amid skeptical Wall Street analysts.

"Skype represents a tremendous opportunity for our sellers to connect even more closely with their buyers," Bill Cobb, president of eBay North America, said in a statement.

In the pilot program set to begin June 19, sellers can add a Skype Me button to listings. The button then appears in the "Ask a seller a question" section when buyers view the item.

Selecting the button will allow interested persons to contact the seller by voice, as well as text.

The service will be free once users download the Skype software and purchase headsets.

Categories chosen for the Skype button include those with items that are pricier than usual, complex or elicit a high volume of questions, according to eBay.

The integration of Skype solves two nagging problems for high-value online transactions. Buyers want to talk to sellers, but sellers don't want to give out their phone numbers said Lydia Leong, a Gartner analyst.

The Skype option "fosters transactional trust," Leong said.

For Skype to compete, it must also break out of the cheaper phone call mentality. Voice minutes are fundamentally commoditized, according to the analyst.

"The real value is bringing things together," Leong said.

Smooth communication is at the core of e-commerce, eBay said.

"We are watching Skype take its first steps into the e-commerce mainstream," Henry Gomes, eBay's North America general manager, said in a statement.

Items that have a local component, such as products requiring local delivery or pick up are also prime categories for Skype's use. Additionally, collectibles are also deemed ideal for the click-to-call feature.

In another effort to widen the use of Skype, top PC maker Dell said it would include the free VoIP software on its new high-end laptops.

That followed news Skype will suspend calling charges when calling out to regular phones.

Yesterday, in another move, eBay announced plans to challenge Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo and others for the contextual advertising market.

With eBay's "Get Contextual Keywords" API, developers will be able to earn revenue whenever a user clicks on a contextual ad. As previously reported, eBay will search its pages and deliver content based on a keyword search.

Ebay's outreach efforts also included an e-commerce pact with Internet portal Yahoo.

Along with Yahoo serving ads to auction users, the two companies said they plan to work on implementing a click-to-call feature using either Skype or Yahoo’s voice-enable IM.

The Skype Me announcement is reportedly one leg of eBay CEO Meg Whitman's "Power of Three" philosophy which puts into play the Skype purchase, the earlier acquisition of online payment service PayPal and the established online auction service.



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