In a nasty war of words between VOIP providers, Fring accused Skype of blocking it from letting users make video calls on Apple’s iPhone 4, Google Android and other smartphones and applied the “c-word” to the company.
Fring, which has enjoyed interconnectivity with Skype for four years, called Skype “cowards” for allegedly blocking Fring from offering video chat on smartphones. Skype said it didn’t block Fring.
Video chat via smartphones is a rich growth area Skype would love to own the way it has corralled almost 500 million users for its Web-based, long-distance calling and video capabilities on desktops all over the world. It makes sense that Skype would protect its business interests in this vein.
The issue started July 8 when Fring launched video calling for the iPhone iOS 4, Android and Nokia Symbian 60 devices.
Fring said in a press statement July 12 that it had to cease “Skype interconnectivity following threat of legal action. Skype’s anti-competitive ambush comes in the wake of Fring’s mobile video calling on iPhone 4 launch.”
In a follow-up blog post, Fring changed the characterization that it had to turn off Skype to say Skype had actively blocked Fring from the iPhone 4:
“Now that fring expanded capacity to support the huge demand for video calling for all users, Skype has blocked us from doing so. They are afraid of open mobile communication. Cowards.”
Robert Miller, Skype’s vice president and general counsel, responded in a blog post that Fring was using Skype in a way it wasn’t designed to be used. Despite discussing this issue with Fring “for some time,” Miller said Fring’s actions were damaging to Skype’s brand and reputation.
Moreover, he said it was Fring that nixed Skype support on iOS 4.
“On Friday, for example, Fring withdrew support for video calls over Skype on iOS 4 without warning, again damaging our brand and disappointing our customers, who have high expectations of the Skype experience,” Miller said.
He added a none-too-subtle threat to Fring: That Skype will protect its brand and reputation and that developers that do not comply with its terms will be subject to legal enforcement.
Fring, meanwhile, pulled the “openness” card in its blog post:
“Needless to say, we are very disappointed that Skype, who once championed the cause of openness, is now trying to muzzle competition, even at the expense of its own users. We’re sorry for the inconvenience Skype has caused you.”
Fring promised to soldier on without Skype, providing its users free video calls, calls and live chat on “any advanced smartphone, over any mobile operator, over your preferred Internet connection (3G, 4G, WiFi) from the Fring Website here and app stores.”
Skype, whose mobile application is featured and preloaded on the Motorola Droid X Verizon Wireless that will begin selling July 15, is in good position for uptick of VOIP in smartphones.
The company is sitting on a goldmine in its massive network of users.