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EBay US to unveil Skype tie-ins

So far, eBay has moved cautiously to knit Skype into its core eBay auction business.

india Updated: Jun 12, 2006 12:12 IST

Online marketplace eBay Inc is set to detail on Tuesday how it plans to combine its Skype Web telephone-call service into its core US auction business, executives said on Sunday.

"We will have some news on Tuesday about Skype," John Donahoe, president of eBay's Marketplace unit, told an audience of software developers at the company's annual developer conference in Las Vegas.

Newsweek magazine reported on Sunday that the company plans to encourage eBay sellers to embed Skype calling links into auction pages in a few product categories, including cars, real estate and diamond solitaire rings.

So-called "click to call" features through which eBay customers can contact sellers directly via text message, voice or video conference have been a main selling point of eBay's acquisition of Skype in October for as much as $4.2 billion.

Executives declined to provide further details during a panel discussion at the developers' conference. The eBay-Skype announcement will be made during Bill Cobb's keynote speech Tuesday evening at the company's annual user conference here. Cobb is president of eBay's core North American unit.

A Skype spokesman declined to comment on the plans.

So far, eBay has moved cautiously to knit Skype into its core eBay auction business.

While more than 100 millions users worldwide have signed up to use the free or low-cost computer and phone calling service, the US market has been slower to develop. Initially, there was little overlap between eBay's audience and Skype users.

In its most basic form, Skype differs little from other popular instant messaging software systems. And while its Web calling features are catching on among computer users, users must first buy earphones, microphones or special phone handsets to take advantage of cheap phone call features.

Len Pryor, Skype's head of developer relations, said in interview that the company has been testing Skype integration with eBay in five smaller country markets in Asia and Europe, including Belgium.

"The key markets will be coming online later," Pryor said, when asked about the time frame for embedding Skype features in the auctions business in its main markets of the United States, Germany and Britain.

First Published: Jun 12, 2006 12:12 IST