With all the hoopla around mobile VoIP applications, the mainstream media is beginning to ask the question: where is Skype? Good question actually, one we have been asking for sometime now. Business Week has picked up a report in a finnish newspaper, where (thankfully) Skype Chief […]

With all the hoopla around mobile VoIP applications, the mainstream media is beginning to ask the question: where is Skype? Good question actually, one we have been asking for sometime now. Business Week has picked up a report in a finnish newspaper, where (thankfully) Skype Chief Executive Officer Niklas Zennstrom was brutally honest in his answers about the problems his company is having.

“When we begun developing the mobile phone version we didn’t realize the number of technical obstacles. It is challenging and is taking much longer than expected,”

Let me breakdown these challenges:

1. Skype needs a lot of CPU cycles (see your computer’s process monitor) and mobile phone CPUs, even the best of them are not good enough. Skype is trying its best to bring down the CPU cycle requirements, but the performance-requirements are not have a Zen moment as yet.

2. Skype needs bandwidth – a lot of it, and running it a pure peer-to-peer client is just not possible on many of today’s networks. As 3G becomes prevalent, this issue just might get resolved.

3. Skype would suck the mobile phone batteries dry within hours because the client is always doing something. Not sure, how this issue gets resolved.

More than that, I think one think Niklas doesn’t admit to is that internal philosophies of Skype are coming in the way of their mobile efforts. Skype has always wanted to offload all the heavy lifting to the client, and basically stay clear of spending on the infrastructure. Right now, they can roll out a solution similar to say iSkoot (which essentially runs your Skype instance on a virtual machine on a server and acts like your desktop.)

Do you really want Mobile Skype?

  1. Skype and GTalk are available for Mobile via a third party cellphone application called fring. You can install fring on your symbian cellphones and make free fring to fring calls, Skype calls, Gtalk and Skypeout as well.

  2. Where are they going to run it when they get it? Won’t it be on similar smartphones that have the capability today? Won’t Skype have to use Wifi or run on the back of a cellular data network, which is questionably illegal.

    Carriers won’t support a mobile phone with Skype that will eat their minutes, unless they have something to gain. Carriers would be better to partner with a YAMG who can kick in some advertising dollars. Skype has nothing to offer carriers except extra demand for their data services.

    Ok, here we go again. Isn’t this similar to the net neutrality issue.

  3. The technical challenges could easily be solved, If skype forced to run the mobile clients in non super node for now. Anyway there is no point of a mobile skype being a supernode because it does not have a public ip address (also processor and bandwidth limitations)

    No I think the problem with mobile phone market is fragmentation and how difficult it is to develop applications for them. Remember Skype had already attacked Windows mobile very early because it is easy to develop rich applications for it. Hoever the same cannot be said for other platforms. I dont think the performance of j2me cuts it for something like skype.

  4. the other part of it –

    cellular voice is ridiculously optimized… for ex., a voice call over CDMA is about 4K / sec in bandwidth consumed.

    Just try running Skype on a dialup.

  5. To the question “Do you really want Mobile Skype?”

    There is one device called mylo(sony) you can use it to connect Fon’s(www.fon.com) hot spot using skype.

  6. IMHO, Skype mobile will have some trouble. Carriers have been smart with Data plans. Lets look at the numbers. 28kbps voice requires about 210KB of data transfer per minute. This is assuming skype runs in non-supernode mode. Most data services in US cost about $2.00 per 1MB. if you do the math, skype call will cost you $0.40 per minute. But, voice costs about $0.05 per minute. So, unless data plans become very cheap skype will have tough time.

    For Skype to be succesful, it requires an all-you-can-eat data service at very low cost AND a voice carrier who charges exorbitant prices for voice calls. Both are not true in mobile business.

    This is in US. Not sure about Europe though. One of the big reasons for Skype’s success in Europe and Asia was sky high voice call rates. Itseems like Mobile voice call rates are quite high too in Europe. Dont know if that’ll make a difference.

  7. Plus, dual mode wifi/cellular service, such as that which T-Mobile is rolling out, render Skype Mobile obsolete when customers will be able to walk out of a store with a phone that’s pre-configured and ready to use.

    Skype over 3G is a non-starter because of all of the data pricing issues mentioned previously.

  8. I run Skype on my Windows Mobile 5 phone, and it is a little boggy over my 512kbps DSL (over 802.11g) (only a 195MHz machine).

  9. Actually, I’d be happy with a Windows Mobile client that just supported instant messaging. The full-featured client they have now kills the battery of my XV6700 in about 20 minutes of use over WiFi. I am using Skype as my only presence client and it would be cool to keep that functionality + instant messaging.

  10. I covered a mobile application called fring on my blog few days back. fring is basically an integrated mobile client for Skype & GTalk which uses Skype API. It works on GPRS & 3G network and does not require to connect to your computer or Wi-Fi network. The application also allows to make calls between other fring users and SkypeOut as well. I tried it on my GPRS/EDGE and it worke fine. I am sure it will work better with 3G.


Comments have been disabled for this post