Skype Coming to BlackBerry in May
At CTIA, Skype announces its VOIP application for RIM's BlackBerry smartphones, while COO Scott Durchslag outlines the future of Skype and its impact on small businesses.
A day after announcing the availability of its VOIP service on the Apple iPhone and iPod touch, Skype officially confirmed the in-demand application, which allows users to dial other Skype accounts for free, would be coming in a BlackBerry-compatible version in May.
Skype, owned by parent company eBay, made the announcement March 31 at the CTIA Wireless convention in Las Vegas. Skype officials said a beta version would be available in May for the BlackBerry Bold and BlackBerry Curve smartphones, which are manufactured by Research In Motion. Support for other BlackBerry smartphones would follow, according to the company.
"With Skype on BlackBerry smartphones, we are making Skype available in the briefcases and purses of BlackBerry users around the world," said Skype COO Scott Durchslag. "We have heard loud and clear that our users want Skype on whichever smartphone they choose to use." Durchslag said this fulfills their promise of making Skype available on the major smartphones so consumers and mobile professionals can connect to Skype "whenever, wherever and however they choose."
Skype's technology allows users to connect to other Skype users or traditional land lines and mobile phones, as well as send and receive text messages. Video messaging capability, while not yet available on the mobile Skype application, is expected to roll out later on. "If we do it we will have to do it incredibly well," Durchslag told Reuters last week. "I'm firmly convinced that if Skype could find a way to bridge all those cellphone cameras and laptop cameras it might kick-start a video telephony opportunity."
Skype said the lite version of Skype will be available to BlackBerry users worldwide, while the ability to make calls will be available in 10 countries, including Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom. English will be supported first, with additional languages to follow. Those who download the beta version will be able to provide feedback on the application via an online survey.
With many working professionals and small business owners looking to reduce costs in a down economy, the Skype application-video capability or not-seems well poised to increase in popularity, especially in the United States, where its adoption has been slower than in European countries. In December, Skype announced a beta client for Windows Mobile-enabled devices, which has been downloaded more than 12 million times worldwide. As of January 2009, Skype is also available for Google's Android mobile platform and more than 100 Java-enabled mobile phones.
At CTIA, Durchslag said the company's mission is enabling the world's conversation, and said moving into the mobile space is critical because that is where the world's conversations are taking place. "It's about software, and what you can do on these devices," he said. "The consumer has to be at the center of the communications ecosystem."
Durchslag also mentioned Skype's penetration into the business world, particularly in light of the worldwide economic crisis that has sent small businesses scrambling. "I can't tell you how many companies that, because of the economic situation, find themselves forced to make a choice-sacrificing costs or sacrificing quality," he said. "With Skype you're actually able to improve the quality over that of a cell or land-line call and see huge savings, up to 70 or 80 percent."
Businesses are using Skype to save money, reduce business travel costs and improve productivity, noting 35 percent of Skype's 405 million users are in business environments. Durchslag said he expected revenues to double over the next three years and referred to small and midsize businesses as the company's "target market."