What am I bid to be a phone company?

This morning’s Observer column about eBay’s acquisition of Skype. (Podcast here.)

Why did eBay splash out? Here’s an heretical thought: it is a symptom of a midlife crisis. Remember that eBay was one of the poster children of the original internet boom. Unlike most of its contemporaries, it was profitable almost from day one, has seen 10 years of explosive growth and now boasts 157 million users in 34 countries, with annual profits touching $1bn a year.

Now, this is great, but it can’t go on for ever. So if you were eBay’s management, sitting on a mountain of cash and nursing a buoyant share price, you’d be looking beyond the point where the auction business begins to plateau. You’d be looking for something with even bigger growth potential than online trading. Which would lead you to VoIP, the Next Big Thing…