Goin’ Mobile with Skype — Beep, Beep

Interest in Skype on mobile platforms drew a reasonable size audience to the Goin’ Mobile with Skype session at Fall VON last Wednesday. And the queries at the session certainly were a gauge of the intensity of interest. Panelists represented a range of options for using Skype on mobile devices.

The four panel participants on the left have various Blackberry models while James Body of Truphone holds an iPhone, a Nokia N95 and a Nokia E61; Samuel Li of iSkoot brought along a Skypephone running on AT&T. An informal poll of the 40 to 50 attendees showed only two hands went up for Windows Mobile device users with the remainder split between Blackberry and iPhone devices.

As a result of a last minute invitation from Jon Arnold (seated, center with the Red Sox cap), who chaired the session, I provided a lead presentation of an overview based on my Skype Primer post a week ago on Mobile Conversations, Helen Khais of Shape Services (left), publisher of IM+ for Skype, talked about invoking Skype conferencing onto mobile devices, a differentiating feature of IM+ for Skype.

Showing data supporting his contention that voice over cellular data or WiFi will still only represent less than 10% of all voice traffic in 2012, Mobivox CEO Stephane Marceau (second from left) reminded us that evolving the mobile experience to the mass market involved simplicity:

  • No downloads or data plans
  • Use currently owned handsets and current carrier services

Key to Mobivox’s future is their ability to leverage speech recognition as an enabler of new services without the need for smartphones.

James Body, Director of Research at Truphone (2nd from right with all the devices on which he does his "research") talked about some of the engineering issues in taking Skype mobile:

  • The liabilities of a peer-to-peer infrastructure when going mobile
  • Handset stamina: battery life as impacted by radio management logistics as well as wireless mode (WiFi, 2G, 3G) and voice codecs.
  • Codecs deployed and their impact on call quality, pointing out that recent changes to Skype codecs have resulted in much better SkypeOut call quality as the new ones transcode much more effectively with mobile device codecs. (More on that when I write about the HD Voice session I attended later.)
  • three architectural paths to consider when scaling Skype on mobile:

    • Front end loading (peer-to-peer)
    • Back end loading (with the device as a simple voice and/or dialpad user interface to an underlying intelligent infrastructure)
    • Separation of IM (text chat, presence) from voice and video

James then questioned the carriers’ interest in dealing with VoIP, leaving us with the suggestion that it’s the technologically savvy "small furry animals", as represented by the panelists’ various services, who will lead the evolution that challenges the "dinosaur" carriers.

Blackberry 8820, Skypephone and Nokia E61 with Skype implementations via iSkoot.

Samuel Li, iSkoot’s VP Product Management, then brought out his Skypephone with its Skype button that activates Skype access, providing "free" voice and IM access to Skype users worldwide provided you can subscribe to the 3 Network. Most interesting to note was that it is a tri-band device (that only gets you a fraction of the North American GSM coverage but works fine in Europe and Asia) and the phonebook integration. After mentioning iSkoot’s portfolio of 7 patents pending, he concluded by claiming that iSkoot’s offering (which includes Skype clients for Blackberry and various Nokia smartphones) is the only scalable carrier grade complete Skype solution that combines user and carrier friendliness with an actual carrier supported implementation.

In summary experiencing Skype on mobile platforms is going to be an evolutionary process as we seek out a user friendly, effective, low cost solution::

  • we will see a variety of Skype-enabled solutions for mobile access
  • there are many engineering issues yet to be resolved
  • there is a call for challenging the carriers’ role as a "gateway" to low cost, high quality mobile conversations
  • we need to see more sophisticated, but user friendly, models for managing multiple Skype logins, presence and interruptions

Related posts:

  • Jon Arnold, who chaired the session, put up some photos.
  • Alec Saunders spent all of $4.16 for his mobile calls during Fall VON.
  • Garret Smith thinks Mobile VoIP is Hot on Consumer Minds

Tags: Skype, mobile Skype, Fall VON 2007, Shape Services, IM+ for Skype, Mobivox, Truphone, iSkoot, Helen Khais, Stephane Marceau, James Body, Samuel Li, Jon Arnold, Alec Saunders, Garrett Smith, Skypephone, Blackberry, Nokia smartphones

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.
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