Skype finally getting a bit more open? No wait, not really.

Posted by Minnaar Pieters 24 Mar 2009
Skype LogoSkype might be one of the most popular instant message and VoIP clients on the market today (they recently clocked in 17 million online at once). But their innovation has been slowing down in recent years - while they might have been developing their voice quality, and give better video quality, they have been turning a blind eye to many trends that are occurring around them.

Best example of this is the mobile space – true, they made a Windows Mobile client available, but the interface is bad and the software is buggy, as is the case with most Windows Mobile applications. They ignored other platforms like Symbian (which is by far the most popular) and iPhone OS, which would trigger much bigger uptake seeing as many early adopters run these other two mobile OS’s. Windows Mobile users are more likely to be user's forced by their corporate environment to use WM because it (wrongly so) gives the best Exchange support.
But their most significant flaw has been their reluctance to open up the Skype API to other companies. True, applications like Fring and Nimbuzz can make Skype calls, but they had to reverse engineer the standard in order for it to run. While Skype voice calls might have been something we would have all liked to access on a variety of platforms, they also prevented text chatting between different platforms (for example MSN to Skype), and users had to use “in between” clients like Adium and Digsby (which are both excellent by the way).

But luckily they woke up this week with a significant new announcement – Skype is going to start supporting SIP standards. Session Initiation Protocol is a open standard which is currently used by many in-office voice over IP systems. The new service will enable people to make calls from their office VoIP phones to any other regular or cellular phone at Skype’s cheap SkypeOut prices. (for example your office might decide that all outgoing call traffic to cellular phones go through a central SkypeOut account which can save quite a lot on phone bills).
The service will initially only be available in public beta, available at http://skype.biz

So if your business makes a significant amount of outside (especially overseas) calls, consider it. For consumers, Skype is also making available SFS (Skype for SIP) which enables you to connect you Skype name to a SIP IP address, therefore making you reachable by SIP wherever you might be connected to the web. Also, your SIP phone will ring when users contact your Skype address.

Whatever the news, I cant help thinking that maybe Skype needs to address its more urgent concerns of a open API and addressing the mobile space.

PS: Whatever happened to the story that Skype will communicate with Google Talk clients natively?

Update: Well, Skype did finally decide to release a Skype client for iPhone and Blackberry.



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I am a R&D Analyst in Stellenbosch South Africa who has a immense passion for all things tech related. I embrace technology, open source and web standards, and I participate and contribute to the social web.