Skype, a business unit of eBay, is the world’s pre-eminent Internet conversation service providing the ability to have free voice, text and/or video conversations worldwide with other Skype users. In addition Skype provides low cost voice connections to virtually any landline phone worldwide as well as mobile phones in North America (U.S. and Canada). It also provides voice connections to mobile phones elsewhere; however, in a “caller pays” wireless service world these calls do have somewhat higher charges.
With any of today’s personal computers, whether Windows-, Mac- or Linux-based, Skype users can not only converse but also have up to ten-party conference calls; exchange files, such as documents and photographs; send SMS messages and leave voicemails. A key security feature of Skype is that all conversations are encrypted as well as the file transfer. Communications enhanced business solutions, such as collaboration tools, call centers and unified messaging, are available from Skype partners.
Unique features of Skype include:
- Easily installed software (over 275 million accounts have been registered worldwide)
- Simple, straight forward user interface:
- single click to initiate a conversation,
- user managed contact directory,
- full touchtone dialpad (usually to dial extensions or provide PIN numbers)
- High Definition (HD) voice: all Skype-to-Skype calls feature wideband voice,
- capturing a more true-to-life high quality audio that makes conversations more readily understood
- reduces “squawkiness” of traditional phone conversations
- Chat session archive going back six months
- Contact management, including caller blocking, only accepting calls from established contacts, etc.
- Standard Video: works with most webcams, including Mac iSight
- 320 x 240 @ 15 fps
- High Quality Video: 640 x 480 @ 30 fps
- requires Intel dual core processor and Logitech webcam with Carl-Zeiss optics
The Skype Ecosystem
Skype has established a network of hardware and software partners to extend Skype’s reach beyond the PC. Hardware partners produce Skype phones and headsets; software partners extend Skype’s traditional business model disruption by offering legacy enterprise telephony services, such as call centers and collaboration tools, at costs that are affordable for the small-to-medium business.
Skype’ licensed hardware vendors supply telephony hardware to support voice calls and text messaging. Their products include:
- Headsets for PC’s
- USB telephones that work in conjunction with Skype on the PC
- PC-Free phones which connect directly to the Internet via embedded Skype firmware
Skype also has worked with several mobile platform vendors to supply embedded firmware and software on Nokia Internet Tablets, Sony entertainment devices and the forthcoming Intel Mobile Internet Devices.
In late 2007 Skype partnered with the 3 wireless service in the U.K. to launch the 3 Skypephone that allows users of the service to make voice calls to, and/or exchange text messages with, any Skype user worldwide at no cost. Calls to PSTN numbers are via 3’s standard wireless services. The 3 Skypephone also includes popular mobile device features such as a snapshot/video camera and a media player. Other software partners have developed services that provide Skype access on RIM’s Blackberries, Nokia N- and E-series multimedia phones and Windows Mobile devices.
Skype has partnered with several developers to develop communications enhanced business solutions that significantly reduce business process costs. Collaboration tools, call center management, fax transmission, hosted unified messaging services, hosted voice services, Skype utilities (such as call recording, personalization, enhanced voice mail and session archiving) and high quality hosted conference calls are amongst the business tools offered by Skype’s partners. The impact of Skype’s partner offerings is often to open up to small businesses many communications tools that have traditionally been considered only to be cost effective for larger enterprises. [More details]
Skype API’s and Skype Developer Program
For developers and IT professionals who wish to either incorporate Skype into their offerings or develop new communications enhanced business processes, Skype’s Developer Program offers a full range of API’s and SDK’s to facilitate integration of Skype and its services.