OpenSky vs. SkypeforSIP - It's On Baby!

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OpenSky vs. SkypeforSIP - It's On Baby!

It's on! It's Gizmo5's OpenSky vs. Skype. Michael Robertson, the CEO of Gizmo5 has a post up where he compares Gizmo5's OpenSky to Skype's SkypeforSIP. It's interesting how Michael talks about open standards, mentioning .mp3, a standard which Michael was a proponent of when he ran and then backslaps Skype upside the head basically saying "What took you so long? I've been telling you all along Skype that you need to embrace the SIP standard."

He continues the blog post by comparing OpenSky, a SIP-to-Skype service that launched last month to Skype's just launched SkypeforSIP. It's a worthy endeavor on Michael's part to provide such a comparison, even if he is biased in favor of his company's offering.

Check out Michael's comparison of the two SIP for Skype services:

SIP for Skype Solutions
  OpenSky (Gizmo5) SkypeforSIP (ebay)
Receive Skype calls on SIP software and hardware Yes Yes
Place Skype calls to SIP devices Yes Yes
Answer/Call Skype from browser Yes No
Includes free voicemail Yes No
Free trial Up to 5 minute calls to Skype No
Single user cost $20/per year No
50 User Pricing $800/per year $2499 purchase plus annual fee*
Per call PSTN connection fee None 3.9 cents
Availability Now Dec. 2009*
Supported codecs g729, ilbc, pcmu/pcma, gsm, speex, and custom g729
* Estimated

At first glance, it's easy to look at this pretty chart and declare OpenSky the clear winner. But let's take a closer look. He mentioned OpenSky offers free voicemail. While that's nice to have, SkypeforSIP is targeted towards IP-PBXs which have their own auto-attendant and fancy voicemail systems. Most people with IP-PBXs would rather keep their existing voicemail system rather than switch to a hosted one. He lists 'Answer/Call Skype from a browser' as a feature that SkypeforSIP doesn't have. I spoke with a Skype representative just yesterday and he mentioned inbound calling capabilities from the Web (click-to-call buttons) to your corporate IP-PBX, though he didn't indicate if this feature would be part of the initial beta. So I'm not sure exactly what Michael is referring to here.

Update: Wednesday - Finally got in touch with Michael Robertson who clarified some points.

Michael said:
Wanted to reply to your post. First of all as I've said it's great to see Skype crack the door a tiny bit open to let a glimmer of light shine through but we should be clear their services are not available today. Period. OpenSky is available right now. Anyone can make test calls for free without even signing up. That's what "available" means.

Skype's tendency now is to pre-announce vaporware and then the press covers it as if it is a shipping project. Vaporware sucks because it's a way big companies tie up an industry and drown out smaller companies that move quicker. It sucks when Microsoft does it and sucks when Skype does it. Ebay announced Skype for asterisk last year and according to Digium they have 100 beta testers or so more than 6 months later.

Their product representative can chant "It's available now." as many times as they want but it is simply not. What is available is a survey users can fill out where they can measure demand and decide whether they are going to build this or not. This is a newly contemplated service and only after OpenSky came out did they really consider this. The SkypeforSIP domain was registered just this month.

With regards to the above paragraph about 'Answer/Call Skype from a browser' he responded, "I am referring to which is an entirely browser based VOIP service. Because it utilizes only Flash technology it can be used on any computer anywhere - such as netbook, net cafe, library, etc and users can answer and make all their calls (PSTN and Skype). No download required. "

Another thing to consider is how OpenSky and SkypeforSIP connect to the Skype cloud and if Skype has a competitive advantage there. While both support SIP on the front-end, the back-end conversion for OpenSky sits on Gizmo5's network and the back-end conversion for SkypeforSIP sits on Skype's network. So is there any better call quality or QoS that Skype can offer over Gizmo5? Without knowing the exact technical details of each, I don't think Skype would be better than OpenSky. However, it's possible that without net neutrality legislation, that Skype could detect OpenSky connections and "throttle" the packets, inject latency, etc. Doubt they'd do that, especially after the FCC slapped down Comcast for messing with user's Internet traffic, but you never know.

The SkypeforSIP $2499 purchase price plus annual fee seemed way too high, however Michael has an asterisk with the word 'Estimated' at the bottom. Later on I confirmed with a Skype representative that this is indeed inaccurate. Also, the 3.9 cent connection charge per call vs. free for OpenSky seemed like a huge pricing advantage for OpenSky. As an example, if the average SMB makes 500 outbound calls per day, that's $19.50/day in connection fees. With 20 work days per month, that's $390/month more for SkypeforSIP. Skype would have to be dramatically lower in per-minute pricing to catch up to OpenSky's lower pricing. If you make mostly domestic (U.S.) calls, and not a lot of international calls, then there's no way SkypeforSIP could catch up to OpenSky's pricing. This pricing comparison assumes Michael's chart was indeed accurate, but I had my skeptic hat on - and rightfully so once I talked to a Skype rep.

As I mentioned, the $2499 purchase price seemed too high and I didn't think the 3.9 cent connection charge was entirely accurate so I contacted a Skype representative to respond to Michael's claims. I said, "I haven't seen any pricing info for SkypeforSIP, so I'm not sure where Michael got his estimated pricing". The unnamed Skype representative responded, "Skype has not settled on final pricing. I can tell you that we are going to be following the typical Skype disruption to existing business models when we do announce our pricing."

Update: Wednesday
Michael Robertson responded, "I stand by my price and delivery estimates. Skype for Asterisk and Skype for SIP will be expensive options as ebay tries to get money from business customers."

With regards to Michael's chart where he lists Skype as having a $0.03 cent connection fee, the Skype rep responded, "Nowhere have we said there is a connection fee. Essentially, the only time there is a connection fee is when they are using pay-as-you-go - they're just using Skype credits. And actually the connection fee does not apply in the U.S. Ultimately, someone who is using this for business is going to have a subscription anyway. So they're not going to be paying a connection fee to start with."

With regards to Michael's knocking SkypeforSIP's "availability" (December 2009), he responded, "The product is available now. It's using the same Skype technology that has been tested & deployed for the last 5 years. He's saying December 2009 - that's not the case."

With regards to the chart comparing codecs supported, he told me that G.711 will be rolled into the beta in the coming weeks and it's already available to internal testers. As for the other codecs which OpenSky supports and SkypeforSIP does not, he responded, "Most global termination providers only support G.729 and G.711, so the other codecs Michael listed are redundant until SIP endpoints deploy a high-quality wideband codec like G.722 or SILK. "

Finally, the Skype representative said, "Some other interesting things he has not raised, but we are happy to raise, is the Skype business control panel. People can administer their accounts, setup billing, resolve call logging histories, and other features for businesses. I don't think OpenSky does that. The key thing here is that SkypeforSIP was built by the same engineering team that is at the heart of Skype. They've been dealing with SkypeIn and SkypeOut for years, so we understand scalability, usability, and high performance core network design. Gizmo is running on consumer clients running on large number of servers which questions scalability and efficiency to a business."

Update: Wednesday
Michael responded, "Gizmo5 has a business control panel that - like Skype - lets an administrator manage multiple accounts. That's available today at:"

The battle has commenced. Your move Michael. Wonder if I should get Mark Spencer from Digium/Asterisk involved in this fight since Digium recently launched Skype for Asterisk? May as well make it a battle royal!

Update: (few minutes after posted)
Skype Journal has a nice comparison of Skype for Asterisk vs. SkypeforSIP.

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