Skype has always been challenged with respect to making its growing feature set available on the most popular operating systems: Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. The major ongoing complaint from Skype users has been features on a new release for one OS that don’t appear on the other OS’s clients that may not be updated for up to a year later. With respect to Skype’s developer platform, a major complaint of third party developers has been the lack of any web services tools to embed Skype into web-based applications.
But maybe Scendix, publisher of PamFax and Pamela, is showing us how to make applications OS-agnostic such that all versions of an application get new features concurrently.
Since its launch in December 2007, although it was not obvious to the end users at the time, PamFax has been largely a web-based application, starting with PamFax for Windows. For the next sixteen months, the Scendix PamFax team worked not only to release PamFax 2.0 but also put resources into building a more robust back end, adding support of Fax-in numbers in 26 countries and extending their OS support to make available PamFax for Mac OS X. And subsequent upgrades have made it a more robust, lower cost and multi-lingual service.
Earlier this week Scendix announced the release of PamFax for Linux, bringing low cost, worldwide faxing to all those rabid Linux users who espouse the virtues of a very robust, yet open and feature rich operating system. In so doing, Scendix has, in practice, demonstrated how to make an application OS-agnostic, essentially by building a single website dedicated to the application.
So what did Scendix need to do to make their application run under Linux? After all, they had a core web-based engine supporting the entire feature set. Three steps:
- Build an installer package for each version of Linux supported
- test PamFax’s operation in each operating system environment, and
- perform integration with Skype for Linux (there is an option to send notifications to a Skype chat session)
But there was no need to build a new application or backend – as shown on the left, even the user interface is the same. Its web-services architecture simply needed the modifications described above. Bottom line: PamFax is basically an OS-agnostic “Software as a Service” (“SaaS”) application. And limited developer resources are required to migrate support between OS’s. Effectively the operating system becomes secondary to the more universal web browser.
As their next step, the experience of bringing PamFax to this level has led Scendix to start work on PamFax 3.0, due for release later this spring. The major change here will be to migrate the PamFax web-based infrastructure to an API-based architecture such that PamFax can be readily embedded into third party applications – for instance, a WordPress plug-in that puts a “Fax This” icon on a web page would be one such potential application.
Bottom line: As we await Skype’s new developer platform, PamFax serves as a proxy for demonstrating why a web-services architecture would be an ideal transformation into providing Skype client access not only from Skype-specific clients but also from Skype embedded into a third party’s offering that incorporates Skype access without the need for opening a separate Skype client. In other words, another key link towards building “Skype Everywhere”.
Note: Skype CEO Josh Silverman talks about this topic towards the end of the first half of our recent CES conversation.
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