So much of a threat that I, a long-term dedicated user of Skype, switched without even realizing it. It began when we rolled out Google Apps for our domain, so a lot of my IM chat migrated to Gmail. I was also an early user of Google Voice, which is a brilliant service - so I was using it for SMS's and voice calls.
I was opening Skype less often because I didn't need it - my work colleagues and friends that I wanted to speak to where all steadily migrating to Gmail chat over time. Thinking back now, I can remember switching Skype off from auto-starting with my OS months ago - and over weeks I was leaving Skype open less and less often (mostly because it is a distraction).
With the calls now available straight out of Gmail, I have used it dozens of times since it launched - to call family overseas, for work-related conference calls, etc. I haven't opened Skype in over a week now, and I do not miss it.
I would assume that I was an ideal user for Skype. We had a business account and would use a lot of credits, including a number of dial-in numbers. All of that is being neglected now and everybody in my circle (both work and personal) are on the Google network.
I think the threat to Skype is not just about Google Voice, but the collection of apps and features that Google now offer - namely Voice, IM, Gmail, Chat and now the calls out of Gmail service.
What I think Google do better than Skype is as follows:
- The application is a lot lighter with Google - ie. it is in the browser, as opposed to being a fat desktop client.
- Integration with Apps means I immediately have work colleagues grouped together in IM and Voice
- Google has the advantage of integrating with email (combination of email, IM, SMS and voice)
- The Google mobile clients (Android, etc.), I find, work a lot better than the Skype mobile clients (I have uninstalled all my Skype mobile clients)
- Google has cheaper call rates (I didn't switch based on price, but my family overseas use it because they can dial almost anywhere for free now, right out of their Gmail email client)
- Google IM etc. doesn't have the spam problem that Skype does. While I finally worked out how to put a stop to the spammy chat requests and spam messages on Skype, a lot of people I know struggle with it and eventually give up.
- The voice and video quality in Google chat are very very good. While you need a plugin, I find that the video and voice quality is better than Skype
- Google will always win a price war with Skype, as it is not a core service for them. They can easily afford to build market share by giving calls away and in return not only bringing in new Google platform users, but retaining them and getting those users to extend out and use the other Google services (for eg. Apps penetrated the corporate world because a large number of users were already familiar with the interface because they used Gmail for their personal email - the same applies with Chat, Voice, etc.)
- Many corporate network actively block Skype because the P2P behavior is a huge black-hole that can not be filtered or audited.
- I simply love, love, love Google Voice, it is the best service Google has launched in the past 2-3 years.
The advantages that Skype hold at the moment are brand, their existing user base, the network effect (ie. free Skype-to-Skype) and the P2P technology which, in theory, reduces their cost base.
They must have a plan of action to counter Google (who I would consider their main threat), as a bunch of very smart people bought the company out and are about to float it on the public market.
This plan may include adopting SIP, which would allow them to launch a web interface. I would assume that it may also include a renweed emphasis on corporate offerings such as the behind-the-firewall Skype hubs/routers that the company offers.
I couldn't find any firm figures on how many people were taking up the Google offering, or how many users may or may not be leaving Skype, but as I mentioned above, my own experience is that the Google offering is compelling enough at the moment that a previously heavy Skype user such as myself can switch to Google without even realizing. I can't remember many other situations in tech where something similar has happen.