Small business owners considering dumping their BlackBerry smartphones for the slick Apple iPhone may just have one more reason to do so come next week: Unconfirmed reports circulating the Internet are suggesting Skype (which is owned by eBay) will debut an application for the iPhone at next week's CTIA Wireless conference in Las Vegas.
Speculation was raised after a post on the technology blog GigaOM revealed that a "very reliable" tipster said the Skype iPhone application would be ready to go soon, perhaps as early as next week. That means the launch would coincide with the conference, which begins Wednesday, April 1.
This would be the first standalone client to power Skype on the iPhone, although clients from third party developers such as Truphone and Nimbuzz allow Skype functionality on the iPhone. Nimbuzz has also made Skype available to BlackBerry users. In December, Skype announced beta clients for Windows Mobile-enabled devices, Skype Lite. As of January 2009, Skype was available for Google's Android mobile platform and more than 100 Java-enabled mobile phones.
Skype's software, which allows users to make phone calls over the Internet, also gives users the ability to send instant messages, transfer files and video conference. The company contiues to see rapid growth; as of January 2009, the company is adding about 30 million subscribers a quarter and boasts 405 million user accounts worldwide.
On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported eBay is pushing Skype to generate more revenue, and the company may be turning to the business world to find it. The Journal reports Skype is planning to release software that allows users to connect to corporate phone systems for the price of 2.1 cents a minute for calls to mobile and landlines, but free to systems running Skype software.
In an interview with Stefan Oberg, the general manager of Skype for business, Oberg told The Journal that Skype wants to appeal more to small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) that are looking to cut costs wherever they can in these tough economic times. "Businesses want more than what we have been able to offer so far," Oberg told The Journal.
VOIP solutions, along with Unified Communications (UC) systems, appear routinely on "technologies for SMBs to watch" lists, and Skype is making an effort to provide VOIP solutions for midmarket companies. Earlier this week, Skype released a beta version of Skype for SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), which allows peer-to-peer VOIP clients to interact with existing IP PBXs. The wide release of the service is scheduled for later this year.
"The introduction of Skype for SIP is a significant move for Skype and for any communication intensive business around the world," Oberg said in a prepared statement. "It effectively combines the obvious cost savings and reach of Skype with its large user base, with the call handling functionality, statistics and integration capabilities of traditional office PBX systems, providing great economical savings and increased productivity for the modern business."