Skype is on a roll this week.
First its Joost online video site signed a deal with Viacom to fill the massive void left when the media giant pulled over 100,000 clips (Daily Show, Colbert Report, MTV) from YouTube. The unsatisfied demand for this content now places Joost in a nice spot.
Yesterday Skype rolled out Skype 3.1 Beta for Windows which allows users to search for local businesses and call them.
Why is this important? This is the first step in a product evolution that could take Skype beyond just being a VoIP calling platform. In other words, it's the first sign of local search that could lead to a more diversified lineup and possible ad models around pay-per-call. The new version also has a module for reading and contributing user reviews, a concept that continues to get a great deal of attention for it's value generating potential.
From a pure product standpoint, the local search capability is a nice add-on to Skype's core offering.The extra step required to go out and buy a headset or computer mic is one of the things that has kept Skype languishing somewhere between early adoption and mainstream. Aside from companies like Vonage that let you use your existing phone, this has been a challenge with VoIP adoption for a some time.
That should change however if Skype keeps doing what its doing. Given its installed base and product rollouts, it's be a company to watch. More on the new version at Sebastien Provencher's Praized Blog or directly on the Skype Blog.