24 March 2009

Skype Now Means Business, Friends the SIP World

Skype, a division of beleaguered eBay, is going corporate. The company today announced that it will play nice with corporate PBX systems that use Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). According to The Wall Street Journal, the Skype-for-SIP product will be introduced as a beta product and will be tested by a limited number of companies.

Details on how this service will work are still fuzzy — Skype, continuing its habit of playing favorites in the press, hasn’t really bothered to get in touch with those likely to ask tough questions. The Journal story talks a lot of about the market and competition, without getting into the specifics, except that it will be targeted at small and medium-sized businesses.

How is this new effort supposed to work? A speech by Digium founder and CTO Mark Spencer, the creator of Asterisk, at the recently concluded eComm conference gives us a glimpse of what this new effort might be. Spencer announced that Skype was now going to work with Asterisk.

It supports, of course, the usernames, encryption, end points, and it supports both talking to regular Skype names, any arbitrary Skype name, as well as talking to the SkypeIn, SkypeOut services. It’s really, the first practical Skype gateway from a PBX platform. It allows you to connect this really broad user base of people that are already using Skype, with Asterisk. If you think about Asterisk as a very pragmatic and practical platform for telephony, for business phone systems, Skype has been incredibly successful in the Voice over IP space because it’s been a very pragmatic solution for customers to be able to use.

As Spencer points out, this is really a marriage made in heaven. This product is called Skype for Asterisk. Spencer in his speech said that Skype is going to release “something called the Business Control Panel.”

Although it’s not implemented in the current Beta, Skype is requiring that the usernames you use to register your device with Skype, in other words, the ones you use with the Skype for Asterisk, will all have to be business control panel accounts, which I believe means you are not going to be able to use existing accounts unless you are somehow able to make them part of the business control panel.

A typical boneheaded move, making people sign up for yet another account. Maybe it’s a way to give an illusion of growth, making it easier for the company to be sold to a gullible buyer. WSJ reports that Skype had $550 million in revenues last year. It needs to grow that number fast, otherwise eBay won’t be able to get rid of the service. The megabillion-dollar purchase of Skype was a worse decision than the New York Yankees’ signing of never-playing pitcher Carl Pavano.

Source: Gigaom

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