After watching all the drama surrounding Skype over the last few days, I can only conclude that Meg Whitman, the CEO of eBay duing its 2005 acquisition of Skype, was a moron. At the very least, she severely undervalued the role of technology in the technology business.
Think about it. eBay bought Skype for a whopping $2.6 billion. Never mind that eBay’s vision for Skype — auction integration — was utterly nebulous. eBay spent all that money, and they didn’t even get a license to the source code.
Now, the founders of Skype are suing eBay for trying to tinker with Skype’s source code. All this happened because some numbskull corporate suit with no prior technology background figured that geeky “source code” stuff wasn’t worth buying.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a Skype hater. I love Skype. It’s my primary VoIP service. That’s why I’m saddened to learn Whitman handled Skype’s acquisition so poorly. That’s why I’m saddened to learn she overlooked Skype’s core technology. That’s why I’m saddened to learn her lack of tech-savvy has endangered Skype’s future.
Let the eBay-Skype situation serve a reminder to everyone working in the technology business: it’s as much about the technology as it is the business.