CES '09: Skype Goes Android Mobile
Thursday Skype announced its support for Google's Android platform, however most carriers have yet to allow Skype on their phones in fear of losing revenue.
While Skype offers a cheap method of making calls for those wanting to shed obese land-line charges, the company is now pushing hard to bring its services to mobile phones. Thursday the company released a Lite version of Skype for Android-powered devices, as well as more than 100 other Java-enabled mobile phones. Previously the company tested the Lite version on selected mobile phones internationally, however with this release, U.S. consumers can now benefit from Skype's capabilities.
While many may question why anyone would want VoIP on a mobile phone, the service does have a few benefits, allowing users to make free Skype-to-Skype calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world. Users can also send/receive instant messages to/from individuals or groups and make low-cost Skype calls to landline or mobile phones. The drawback to using Skype Lite is that the application uses local air time and mobile Internet connections, so having a calling plan and a data plan is essential; a local Wi-Fi connection is not needed.
"Making the Skype experience available for download to Android-powered devices, as well as hundreds of other mobile phones from the world's leading handset manufacturers is a major step forward for Skype," said Scott Durchslag, COO of Skype. "Nearly half the world's population are mobile phone users today and we know that many people who already use Skype want the option to use Skype on their mobile phones. We are committed to working towards our goal of getting Skype into the pockets of the mobile masses."
For now, Skype Lite works on currently available Android devices (T-Mobile), however the company expects to cover all Android devices released in the future. Skype Lite also works on other Java-enabled mobile phones from LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. To download the mobile client, head here or grab the file via a PC here.
Additionally, the company announced that its Skype software (1.0 Beta) is also available for Intel-based Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) that utilize Intel's Atom processor and Moblin's Linux operating system. The customized software enables MID users to make free Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls anywhere in the world, allow instant messaging and everything else laptop and desktop users currently enjoy.
"Today's introduction of the first, complete Internet communications offering for MIDs bridges the gap between the phone and PC and underscores our vision of 'Skype everywhere' and our commitment to open access," said Scott Durchslag, Skype's Chief Operating Officer. "By supporting WiFi, WiMax, 3G and 4G, this development expands Skype's mobile portfolio and further illustrates the broad accessibility to Skype that we offer on a multitude of mobile devices."
Skype showcased both the mobile version and the MID version of its software this week at CES '09, and is working with Intel on the latter version to deliver its application software for MIDs through ODMs and OEMs. In the past, mobile carriers have not allowed Skype's software to infect their services in fear of losing revenue if subscribers relied on Skype to make calls over the web rather than the regular voice service. But as Skype has caught on and grown in popularity, many mobile carriers are easing up a bit in restrictions.
"The operators thought in the past we were something just shy of Satan," Chief Operating Officer Scott Durchslag told Reuters in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. "Now we have carriers coming to us." He also commented that the weak economy was actually helping Skype because consumers are looking for cheaper options. Skype is even getting calls from companies that would have never called before now.
While a good portion of the Bestofmedia staff relies on Skype to communicate back and forth online, using the software in a mobile application just doesn't make sense in regards to making calls, especially if consumers must pay for air time and data services anyway. Then again, Skype would be useful during international calls, however the company's service seem best suited locked in a Pc environment.
Apple nixed a Skype client for the iPhone way back when. And, currently there is no official Skype client for Blackberry users; Shape Services offers compatible software called IM+ for Skype costing $30 and features all the bells and whistles offered through Skype's services. The program hogs battery power, uses a constant flow of data, and experiences consistent disconnections. But for now, the application serves as a good substitute until Skype releases an official application -if at all- in the future.