Video: Interview With Skype CEO — Where is Skype for the iPhone?

72 Comments

That’s exactly the question I asked Skype CEO Josh Silverman when he stopped by our office earlier today. “Stay tuned” is all he would say. I tried to ask the question many different times, but he stuck to the standard line. However, he did acknowledge that Skype is very serious about the mobile phone opportunity.

“We need to be on all devices…Skype needs to be everywhere,” he said. While he wouldn’t get into the specifics, he pointed out that, with minimal promotion, Skype for Pocket PC devices has been a big hit — adding up to nearly 7 million downloads. This response is why Skype is looking at all devices such as BlackBerry and iPhone, but not sharing many details. “People don’t want just voice, they are looking for presence and chatting,” Silverman said. (Video interview below the fold.) [digg=http://digg.com/tech_news/Interview_With_Skype_CEO_m_Where_is_Skype_for_the_iPhone]

I recently met with senior officials from “3” which operates a 3G network in the UK (among many other countries) and they pointed out that the data revenues and usage of their network was much higher on phones that were purpose built for Skype. On a more personal note, I use the iSkoot client on Nokia phones to make Skype calls, though there is nothing I want more that a Skype client for the iPhone. (When we wrote about an alternative solution to make Skype work on the iPhone, readers showed quite a bit of interest in the service and it was dugg about 1650 times.)

Silverman, who was formerly the CEO of Shopping.com (an eBay company), took over the CEO job from co-founder Niklas Zennstrom in February 2008 and since then has been focused on learning about the job. He goes into the details in a video conversation that we taped and will post later today. We talk about the beta of Skype 4.0, the eBay relationship and the Skype-killer client being plotted by telecom operators amongst various things.

Silverman said that before he took the job, it seemed to him that the telecom revenues were going away fast. On the job of course, he has found that telecom-related spendging still accounts for 2 percent of the total household income. And despite some dire times for traditional phone companies, the revenues are “showing 5 percent a year growth.”

“[That] tells me people would pay for valuable services,” says Silverman. As prices have declined sharply, people are talking more. Given that Skype’s business doesn’t require the company to spend lot of money on infrastructure, it is easy for the company to squeeze out revenues and profits from the high volume of calls. “From that perspective, that’s still a lot of revenues for us,” he adds. Which is why Silverman thinks that the company has to be careful and not chase e-commerce and advertising revenues: “We don’t want to disrupt the user experience.”

72 Comments

boogybren

Can you even get a data only plan? Otherwise, you would need an iPhone with no plan and just use wi-fi or if you are like me and have AT&T, spend a freaking fortune on voice and date… then use skype.

Why use skype then?

FLGlenn

The CEO saying “Stay Tuned” and even blaming the carriers for not giving them access tells me that they are far away from launching. Wouldn’t even bite when asked if it would be before the year ends.

Sad that they started so late with the iPhone and are not able to produce…

ethana2

The linux version is old too. I just want to be able to get rid of skype entirely. The protocol sucks, the client sucks, the lockin sucks, I just want it to go die a horrible death.

Hopefully Empathy will allow us to move on.

david

j a watson.. you are a troll! I googled you. all you do is rant about skype. you show up in each and every post that mentions skype. you are a bona fide skype hater. did you used to work there and get fired? wow dude… this poison is eating you up. you just have to let it go

realitybiter

I’ve had Skype Mobile on my Windows Mobile HTC Titan for the past year or so. It’s okay, but fring is a better integrated VOIP + IM application.

Jazzy

It is true, the people at Skype are notorious for dragging their feet, but I’m optimistic it will be soon.

me

Lou, you still couldn’t use the Skype/touch combo over wifi in more rural areas where there is no wifi but there would be mobile phone coverage. Also while mobile at high speeds such as when driving where you’d constantly be passing in and out of multiple wifi networks so rapidly that Skype/touch would be no good there either. These are some very popular uses for which iPhone/mobile phones are hard to beat.

However, I’d say that an official Skype app for the new iPod touch 2G makes so much sense it is outrageous. In my opinion the app should have been ready the same day as the touch 2G.

Lou Covey

Here’s the thing. If you can download Skype to an iPod touch, then why would you need to buy an iPhone or even an cell phone plan. Until they figure out how to add it without screwing up the cell market. We ren;t going to see it happen.

Mike Cerm

@Raymond Padilla – Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that I don’t want or wouldn’t use Skype on the iPhone. I would love for Skype to make an app, even with the limitations imposed by Apple.

What I was trying to say is that I don’t think that Skype feels the need to jump onto a hostile development platform. Apple’s restrictions would make it impossible to provide the user-experience and features that Skype would want in an application. So, as a developer, why would you want to add value to a platform that makes it hard for you to do business?

Skype should be more on the ball about developing for Symbian and Windows Mobile. Those platforms aren’t nearly as good as the experience the iPhone provides, but they’re each a lot more open, and that’s something that developers should encourage.

charlie

I doubt we’ll see skype on the iphone. With the new microphone and speaker, you might be able to see Skype on the Ipod Touch. I went to the Apple Store and tried to download Truphone (another VOIP app) on the new Ipod touch — and it wouldn’t allow it. So Skype could offer a Touch client and not get carriers attacking them.

Of course, without background applications, Skype would be pretty useless. Skype is also trying to be a “communications” always on company — when most people use them for cheap international calling. Someone else will come around and eat their lunch. Truphone, however, wont: their international rates are the same price as AT&T.

The problem with all the VOIP services is it hard to compete with free.

JimAtJaxtr

I think developing software that integrates with the mobile phone is key to long term success given how trends are going. I think another key point is that there’s a lot more competition for Skype than when they first became really popular. Jaxtr, Rebtel, all the different calling cards, and many others make this a highly competitive space for Skype.

Sebhelyesfarku

The iPhone is crippled by Apple, no background apps and no VOIP on 3G. On Symbian Fring runs in the background and can make Skype voice calls on 3G and WiFi.

riffic

Todd, Android also has hooks for xmpp/jingle. SIP and XMPP are real standards, not a proprietary closed protocol such as the one skype uses. Skype really only has two options, Open up or die.

Todd

Extrapolating subject out to something that is much more likely to happen, “Where is Skype for Android?”

There will never be an official, blessed Skype for the iPhone. Pigs will fly in frozen Hell first.

But Android’s stack ( Open Source in Q2 09 BTW )does have an intentional empty place holder for SIP in it.

Rick

BTW, most of these voip services will fold, so to compete on user experience is to compete with the living dead.

Rick

Advertising. Isn’t Skype (and all voip software services) destined to become email business models? How do you make money with email – advertise!

Karim

Guys, come on, isn’t it just a matter of time before Apple releases an iPhone specific version of iChat? That will at least enable voice chats from wifi locations. It’s doubtful they’ll easily let Skype steal the march on this.

Raymond Padilla

@Mike Cerm — While the inability to run in the background certainly limits Skype, it would still be amazingly useful for those of us that make many international calls.

J.A. Watson

There are three key phrases that you have to watch for when talking with anyone from Skype – “stay tuned”, “we’re working hard on it”, and “we love our customers…”. All three mean the same thing – we’re not doing squat, we don’t care what you think, and we hope that by mumbling something and keeping our head down, the noise will blow over.

From what I can see in your interview, he at least didn’t parrot the ridiculous “339 million users” rubbish yet again – unless you edited it out, or perhaps he knew that you would challenge him on it.

jonathan

what about the mac client. it’s dying slowly and 1.3 versions behind the windows one. they need to take us mac users more seriously.

@rick, Om is right. user experince is the key here. there are way too many clients out there that do similar things and all have untargeted, unsolitied ads. i like the skype freemium business model!

Om Malik

@Rick

Actually I kinda agree – this is one place advertising doesn’t make much sense. they can make micro-pennies and still have the volume to build a sizeable business. Advertising on their client would only clutter the experience.

Rick

Wow! This guy seems stuck in their pathetic business model. They pay this guy to run Skype in the ground. Has he any idea what advertising would do for Skype?

Mike Cerm

The Skype people like to drag their feet when it comes to delivering clients for mobile devices. I imagine that they’re more focused on delivering their own Wi-Fi handsets, which is ridiculous, because I don’t imagine that they sell many of those.

However, there’s a lot of restrictions that Apple has placed on developers that make the iPhone hostile to VOIP providers. The inability to run in the background or to make or receive calls over 3G would really limit Skype’s usefulness.

Comments are closed.