When I grow up I want to be a CSP

Microsoft, in my opinion, is the school bully in an open market for ISVs with their vice-like stranglehold in certain sectors and technologies. However not everything has gone the Redmond mega-brand’s way. Some divisions in their epic organisation have not made lots of cash; in fact most of the time when they stray away from their core expertise of mass enterprise and consumer level software they lose money. Gaming division aside, it’s been very hit and miss. A good point of reference being Windows Live and in fact almost anything from their Online Services Division.

It is for these reasons that I was actually really surprised when it was announced that they have procured Skype. And it appears I am not the only one.

Skype have of course been bought before, and rating the value of the $8.5bn it has cost Microsoft is tough, but to me it seems a tad high. Again I am not the only one, but I guess purely on a lack of understanding as to how a company worth just shy of £3bn when eBay offloaded 70% in 2009 is now worth $5.5bn more. Is a 663 million subscriber base worth that much? But hold on, we’ll save that one for another day.

I can’t help wondering if this is yet another play from Microsoft to get that one step closer to being a Communications Services Provider (CSP). I have decided that the collective noun for tech mega consumer brands is a gaggle, and in that gaggle who wouldn’t want to become a CSP? If you are an e-tailer or retailer you have an established mature sales channel. Look at the epic success of Carphone Warehouse; effectively a CPE shop turned CSP. If you are a consumer ISV you have, one would hope, software in demand that is such an enabler folks wouldn’t blink about buying their lifestyle services from you too.

We have seen toe dipping of other varieties too not quite CSP but getting closer. If I can continue picking on Microsoft (I find it cathartic), there is the Windows Phone which is a giant leap into the Smartphone space for an ISV. For those bored of me bashing Redmond, then what about Amazon? They are arguably the biggest e-tailer in the world developing a Kindle e-reader that is 3G enabled, so who wouldn’t have a beady eye on what they are doing? Why wouldn’t they want to tap into other content delivery hardware and maybe the networks to facilitate?

You don’t have to look too far back in history to a time when an ISP and a CSP were two different things. Sure, not all have been successful - I still find the ever quickening demise of AOL a sad story - but there are dozens of success stories where what were once server and router managed services businesses, are now full blown CSPs providing fully convergent solutions. We have a few of them as customers at Cerillion. But we are now discussing the other side of that paradigm where brands outside of the communications sector are aspiring to muscle in.

The smart money is not just on those I have already mentioned, though I have a sweepstake on Amazon. If you have a mature established sales channel of any kind, either hard through shops/Internet presence or soft via brand reliability/public opinion, then becoming a CSP must be of strategic consideration...and the conspiracy theorist in me says some Enterprises are already in execution of that strategy! In a time where the consumer has turned their head towards wanting a great experience along with a great product or service, organisations that are already perceived to be providing this will find growth easier. Further to this if you already have devices in the marketplace that communicate via any method and in any way surely a slice of that communications pie is just a tiny step away. Nostradamus, I am not, but watch this space!

p.s. Incidentally I discovered that Microsoft already has software called CSP - Citizen Service Platform - and I can’t decide if this was an Orwellian prophecy come good, the greatest CSPCX innovation on the planet, or a declaration of intent!