Skype for iPad: Creating a Default Video Phone for Consumers?

S4iPad.SampleImage1.200pxYesterday came the first firm indications of the imminent arrival of Skype for iPad. It’s been hotly sought out in Google searches and Skype users have long regarded Skype for iPhone as somewhat pathetic when running on an iPad, especially in 2x mode.  With the iPad’s much larger display and, with iPad 2, its video features a dedicated Skype for iPad offers interesting possibilities, especially for turning an iPad into a unique video phone. The first indication of its appearance was this video on MacRumors where someone had captured a temporary YouTube placement by Skype:

Then came the review on CNET; this post on TUAW provides comments from an interview with Rick Osterloh, Skype Head of Consumer Product Management. But I had my first interview about Skype for iPad with Neil Stevens, Skype’s Vice President and General Manager for Consumer at CES last January. The main takeaway from that interview: Skype has hired a user interface expert to design the UI for Skype for iPad. Skype wanted to get a fresh approach to the user experience.

Some comments re Skype for iPad:

  • Initial response to the video have been positive about the user experience; however, we all need to try it out ourselves.
  • With Skype Everywhere – on PC’s, iPhone, Android, TV sets and BluRay players – and the ability to call the PSTN worlwide – it’s not really competition for FaceTime but rather establishes the standards benchmark for cross platform video and voice calling.
  • Having had an iPad for six months, it has become, as predicted at the time of the initial iPad announcement, my electronic briefcase. I rarely take a briefcase or even my Macbook when out of my home office, just the iPad. Applications such as Skype for iPad (and even Facetime) are an extension of the iPad’s functionality “beyond the briefcase” into user engagement. (Although I do seem to recall often carrying my mobile phone in my briefcase.)
  • The tablet provides an ideal form factor and display size for a video call on a mobile device; easily carried about; no squinting to see the video (unless in direct sunlight). With its much larger battery, it will be interesting to see Skype for iPad’s impact on battery life. Once experienced by consumers Skype for iPad could help accelerate iPad 2’s sales growth.
  • The cnet review, linked above, covered Skype for iPad’s performance over WiFi (excellent) and 3G (good enough). However, recently I dropped my iPad 3G subscription with Rogers when iOS4 became available on my iPhone. When I want to connect my iPad over a 3G connection, I simply turn on the iPhone’s Personal Hotspot and use the iPad’s WiFi via the Personal Hotspot as my only Internet connection. It will be interesting to test reception of a video call on my “original” iPad over this connection.
  • While obviously the audio can be handled over the iPad’s 3.5mm audio jack, it should also work with USB headsets via the iPad’s Camera Connection kit as the USB adapter.
  • One key assumption: given the support on Skype for iPhone, Skype for iPad should be expected to supports Skype’s SILK codec on Skype-to-Skype calls.

Finally, if I had an iPad 2 I could see making the iPad as my primary Skype device. It won’t be hindered by having multiple applications running as on a PC and it’s a very convenient overall form factor. And it’s easily portable with no cables attached. In fact it becomes closer to a large desktop phone (for the same reasons Bria for iPad can become a business desktop phone replacement). Let’s come to that decision once we’ve had actual experience with Skype for iPad.

Hopefully, as rumored, we’ll see Skype for iPad become available about the same time as Skype’s Jonathan Christensen speaks on Tuesday at eComm America 2011.

Final question: is there a hint there of having the same call bar as Skype 5.5 beta for Windows? That would be a contributor to consistency in the user interface.

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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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