After hearing more and more buzz surrounding Skype, I finally downloaded the software to see what it was all about. As far as VoIP providers go, I think Skype has a great business model – free calls to existing Skype users, cheap rates to everyone else on a per minute basis. Unlike other VoIP providers that allow customers to simply plug in their existing phones, to this point Skype has relied on an all-computer setup. This worked for a set of users, but couldn’t really hit mainstream usage in that form. New developments may be changing that reality. Skype recently announced a strategic alliance with Motorola. The announced partnership goals:
The initial focus of the collaboration will be on co-marketing of new optimized Motorola ‘Skype Ready’ companion products, such as Bluetooth(R) headsets, dongles, and speakerphones, as well as delivery of the Skype Internet Telephony experience on select Motorola mobile devices.
Skype is not without its challenges though. Poor performance of both Skype and SkypeOut have been reported. Although this is to be expected with any newer technology (especially as all VoIP providers have documented issues), it will be interesting to see if Skype can make the leap from an an all computer based server to one more integrated with how people are currently familiar with making voice calls.
As far as my experience with the service, Skype really looks like vocal instant messaging. When you sign up, you select a username. This username then becomes your “phone number” in the network. Much like IM, another user either needs to know your username or look it up in a directory. Unfortunately, my own trials are incomplete, as i don’t know anyone using Skype yet!