The opening day of CES 2011 was a banner day for Skype announcements and activity. It started with a morning press conference where new Skype CEO Tony Bates built his message around the themes of “Universal, Useful. Wonderful”:
He covered recent Skype activity and accomplishments:
- From the recent Skype outage, they learned much about Skype’s pervasiveness and users’ reliance on Skype as a critical real time communications service in addition to addressing the technical issues that led to the outage.
- In its annual report on international long distance minutes by service provider, Telegeography had reported earlier in the day that, in 2010, Skype had increased its market share of international calling minutes from 12% in 2009 to 24.7% in 2010. This represents an average of 520 million minutes per day and over 190 billion minutes for the year.
- Video calling has increased to 40% of all calls in 2010.
- When Skype for iPhone 3.0 launched last week, it triggered over 4 million downloads on the Apple app store and over 1 million Skype mobile video calls on the first day.
- Completion of an agreement earlier in the day to acquire Qik, a popular live video streaming service, to complement its video technology resources; from Tony’s blog post linked above:
Skype and Qik share a common purpose of enriching communications with video, and the acquisition of Qik will help to accelerate our leadership in video by adding recording, sharing and storing capabilities to our product portfolio.
Through this acquisition, we’ll also be able to take advantage of the engineering expertise that is behind Qik’s Smart Streaming technology, which optimizes video transmission over wireless networks.
- Launch of Group Calling on Skype. Group calling on Skype for Windows 5.1 has gone “Gold”. It’s being offered as part of a Skype Premium offering that includes Live Chat Support for a monthly $8.99 subscription fee (with discounts for 3 and 12 month subscriptions). While group video calling supports up to ten participants on a call, only the call host requires a subscription.
- More Skype access from the living room involving Skype for TV becoming available later this year on newly introduced Skype-enabled Sony BRAVIA and VIZIO VIA TV’s; Skype has also announced a partnership with Panasonic and Sony to introduce Skype-enabled Blu-ray Players in the near future.
- Opening up SkypeKit beta to any legitimate developer for building third party applications embedding Skype.
Early Thursday afternoon Skype CEO Tony Bates appeared at the Verizon 4GLTE press conference to announce Skype mobile Video that will be appearing within the main feature set of four Android smartphones that will be amongst the initial featured devices supporting Verizon’s new 4G/LTE network. Whereas the current Skype mobile on Verizon uses Skype’s thin-client architecture, the Skype mobile Video will use a true Skype IP client.
For the first time in several years, Skype has a small booth at the rear of the Upper South Hall featuring video calling on iPhones as well as group video calling. But it’s been drawing crowds for the presentations.
Bottom line: speculation can abound as to what new services the Qik acquisition will bring and how they can complement existing Skype services. While the Skype’s user base continues to grow, usage has accelerated significantly when it comes to Skype’s key feature: free international calling. The introduction of a Skype Premium service with a fee encompassing group video calling and live chat support adds the first potentially significant new revenue stream since the launch of Skype Out and Skype Online numbers many years ago. (Coincidental that it comes at the time of filings for a new IPO?)
Note that coincidental with the Group Video calling announcement Skype released Skype for Windows 5.1 that also address a couple of related issues.
Here’s the full morning press conference video:
- TNW Interview with Skype at CES: The next generation of video and why the Kinect is so cool (thenextweb.com)
- Skype Buys Qik Mobile Video Streaming Service (pcworld.com)
- Skype Soon To Be On Sony BRAVIA and VIZIO VIA TVs (socialtimes.com)
- Skype buys Qik mobile video streaming service (macworld.com)
- WATCH: Skype To Acquire Qik (huffingtonpost.com)
- At CES, Skype gets serious about video with Qik buyout (e27.sg)