I just got out of the Internet Telephony Expo keynote featuring Niklas Zennstrom, CEO from Skype, a real rebel trying to establish a business plan for Skype while at the same time maintaining their loyal and rabid following of fans that is currently 12 million users and growing.
Here are some of the highlights:
- SkypeIn for inbound calling from a PSTN number to a Skype user will be launched next year - around July 2005. This will be a major milestone for Skype, since currently right now, Skype users can only reach other Skype users or make outbound PSTN calls. Once Skype offers inbound calling via a PSTN number assigned to the Skype user, then Skype will have all the major bases covered.
- Skype for business will launch next year and feature the following:
- A single Skype account for managing multiple Skype users for easier billing/management
- A web admin interface for managing multiple Skype accounts
- When you dial a single Skype number, you can have it ring multiple Skype users' client software.
(this is similar to a PBX's hunt group's feature)
- Account codes for billing and fraud detection purposes.
- Niklas announced an API for third-party vendors to integrate PIM/CRM apps and other applications with Skype.
- Skype announced a deal with Siemens to create a USB-based wireless Siemens phone that will use Skype technology. I have to go check to see if this is simply a USB phone that uses the Skype API to initiate dialing from the cordess phone, or if the integration is much more complex than that. That is, does the Siemens phone actually have Skype technology embedded within the phone itself?
The distinction is important because if the technology is NOT embedded within the Siemens phone and the phone merely is a "glorified handset" used to initiate dialing through the Skype software installed on the PC, then all this product really does is allow users to not be tethered to their PC when initiating a call. It's a nice feature to have, for sure, but I'd like to see a phone product with Skype technology embedded that DOES NOT REQUIRE a PC to be on to work!
If this Siemens USB-based "Skype" phone does require the PC to be on, then this reminds me of the miserably-failed Microsoft Cordless Phone System - a USB phone with speech-rec dialing and text-to-speech email reading capabilities. I actually got one of their first models to review, and I used it for a week and really loved its cool features, but because I had to leave my PC on 24X7 for the features to work, I finally gave up using it. That and the battery died and Radio Shack didn't carry a replacement battery for it. figures Microsoft would use a proprietary battery!