VoIP leader Skype is looking to get off traditional computers (and kinda oddball dedicated handsets) and into smartphones: the company is expected to launch a Skype application for the Apple iPhone tomorrow, and bring a Skype application to RIM’s popular BlackBerry devices in May.
Skype currently boasts a base of over 400 million users, many of whom were attracted to the service through the promise of free computer-to-computer calling to anyone in the world (with broadband, anyway) and inexpensive international calling—estimates have Skype handling some eight percent of all international calls. Expanding the service to iPhone and BlackBerry owners should increase the service’s appeal—particularly to mobile users who place international calls but don’t want to pay for the under traditional voice plans. With a Skype mobile application, users can place those calls via the Internet if they can get mobile broadband or Wi-Fi connectivity.
Skype for iPhone will be available as a free application; it will also work on the second-generation iPod touch, which has a built-in microphone. (The original iPod touch lacked a mic.) Just like the desktop version of Skype, the application will enable free Skype-to-Skype calling, with calls to and from traditional landlines available for a fee. The Skype application for iPhone will integrate with the iPhone address book so users do not need to keep a separate list of people they talk to using Skype.
Mobile versions of Skype have been available outside the U.S. for some time—Skype was even pitching an iSkoot mobile application a few years ago—but U.S. mobile carriers have been slow to warm to the idea, afraid that it would cannibalize revenues based on voice calling. (AT&T is the exclusive carrier of iPhones in the U.S.; BlackBerry devices are available from most providers.) However, overseas operators have actually found offering Skype can boost mobile usage, particularly mobile data services.