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Summary:

Updated: Skype has announced it will play nice with corporate PBX systems that use Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). While details thus far are fuzzy, 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.

Updated: 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? As Skype Journal explains, this is a simplified version of another PBX-centric product, Skype for Asterisk. 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 and that produce will be called Skype for 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.

Nevertheless, both Skype for SIP and Skype for Asterisk are a 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.

Update: Since posting about Skype on Business, in addition to some clarifications, there are some additional thoughts and comments from our readers:

  • The Business Control Panel is something which is already available. (link)
  • David Beckemeyer aka Mr. VoIP points out that “It maps ONE skype name to ONE PBX SIP endpoint – it lets users on Skype call into the PBX. That’s got some value, but it isn’t general SIP to Skype interop.”
  • Pat Phelan of MaxRoam points out that Skype has become what it set out to disrupt, an ordinary everyday minute stealer.
  • The introduction of the service is bad news for Gizmo5, which recently launched OpenSky,a free service to call Skype from any VoIP phone.
  • Updated#2: SkypeJournal has done a good comparison of Skype for SIP and Skype for Asterisk, pointing out that they are two distinct business products that will help the company grow its revenue base.

    Skype For SIP is barren of everything that makes Skype meaningful and invaluable in the workplace.

    Skype is selling cheap, convenient minutes to enterprise plumbers. Legacy audio quality. No audio, video, conferencing, buddy lists, file sharing, presence, or software extensions. SFS is the commoditized low end of VoIP.

    With SFS, Skype defines itself to the channel and to its business customers as a “value” provider, helping companies shave pennies, competing with the “minute stealer” industry. While there’s money to be had, Skype For SIP

    This abandons Skype’s central tenets

    I couldn’t agree with SkypeJournal more. You shuld really read the full analysis by them.

    Related Post: Who Killed the VoIP Revolution?

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    1. Daniel Brusilovsky Sunday, March 22, 2009

      I’m a big fan of Skype, but I still see Skype as a consumer tool/product.

      1. You are absolutely right. I think the company is basically grasping for straws to grow revenues as aggressively as it can so they be sold to the next sucker. I am sure it will do well. I think it will be a while before this new technology is really adopted.

      2. Smaller companies have increasingly started to use Skype for corporate purposes. We use Skype a lot for international sales and internal collaboration for teams scattered across Asia and South America. In fact, we had submitted this story to Skype, and won their Skype for Business Award for it.

    2. » Skype and WiMax: Time for an SMB Hookup? Sidecut Reports Sunday, March 22, 2009

      [...] before this is all over. On the other you’ve got Skype (and Asterisk) talking about making it easier to interact with SIP and by extension, small business phone [...]

    3. Hasn’t Gizmo Project bridged this gap already?

      1. Gizmo who? Sorry I was being mean. You are right. But Skype has a bigger footprint.

    4. eric jonasson Sunday, March 22, 2009

      Talking of bone heads, it is a bit bone headed to criticise based on no research – Om , please do not follow the RT journalists please – the business control panel of Skype, which has been around for some time, allows any user to be joined to a user group. No new users for Skype this way, and no illusions of growth. Slowly, Skype take the same route as many of the most well known companies , starting at the consumer with a good and cheap product then moving up the quality and service ladder.

      1. @Eric

        Thanks for that clarification about “business control panel”. I am still trying to find clear details on what this “new package” is all about.

        Anyway your comment about moving about the quality and service ladder, it is obvious. They need to grow revenues and they are facing some serious challenge in getting new customers on a consumer level so they are going after business community.

        How good this service will be and how many people will adopt it, remains to be seen.

    5. luca Filigheddu Monday, March 23, 2009

      great to hear this

    6. Basically Om, Skype are partnering with Vosky
      You sit a Vosky box on top of your corporate PBX and voila you now can connect to the open world, maybe I am reading this announcement wrong
      At last Skype seem to have discovered its leverage point, its their minutes, they are at present one of the worlds largest purchaser of minutes and want to use that relationship to pass on their pricing to corporate clients.
      This may work in undeveloped countries but the first time a USA based CEO gets a poor quality call of which we have all had lots on Skype that box will be relegated to the dustbin.
      I think the term Andy Abramson coined many moons ago was “minute stealers”

      1. “first time a USA based CEO gets a poor quality call of which we have all had lots on Skype ”

        CEO’s standards for voice have been effectively reduced thanks to the appalling quality of cellphone voice in the US. They will tolerate bad skype calls especially if they can save some moolah in a recession .

        1. Just tell them your on a cell phone when you call… you’ll be forgiven and maybe even get some sympathy…

    7. Internet-Telefonie: Skype will mit SIP-Unterstützung in die Unternehmen » t3n Magazin Monday, March 23, 2009

      [...] Weitere Informationen und Spekulationen zu den technischen Details der Lösung gibt es hier bei GigaOm. [...]

    8. Om,

      Skype did reach out to some folks late last week – it’s really reached out to you! – and the result is my post here, http://bit.ly/18HT9c , and Jim Courtney’s post here, http://bit.ly/10ADTG

      The “Business Control Panel” is a free service Skype has had around for quite some time that lets you collect your *existing* Skype accounts into a “business” and then assign Skype Credits across all of those accounts. You can also assign “Online Numbers” (what we used to call SkypeIn) to those accounts. Skype indicates that they’ll be redesigning that site soon and incorporating this “Skype For SIP” into that. I was told by Skype that you *could* use existing Skype accounts with Skype For SIP.

      Pat,

      No, this is NOT a partnership with Vosky. It’s more like the “Skype For Asterisk” service in that premise-based SIP servers/IP-PBXs will be able to connect directly to Skype’s SIP network. In fact, if anything I think this announcement would threaten Vosky’s business, since you don’t need Vosky’s premise box to connect into Skype. We’ll see.

      1. @Dan

        That is just straight up bull from Skype PR. They didn’t get in touch and they were selective in getting the information to you, Jim and WSJ. They just admitted to me in e-mail exchange that they were “time limited” in who they were sharing that information with.

        Regarding “business control panel etc.”, so you are essentially saying that WSJ story is wrong?

        1. @Om – Hmmm… I accidently submitted this comment you posted here before I finished editing it and then submitted a second one that said something like “it’s silly that they didn’t reach out to you!” I have no clue who Skype PR did or did not contact and certainly did NOT mean to imply that they tried to reach you.

          So the first sentence of my comment shown here is wrong.

          I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “Regarding So you are essentially saying that WSJ story is wrong.” By “So” are you referring to SkypeOut? Or was that the beginning of the sentence? Unfortunately the WSJ article is behind a subscription paywall and given that I’m not a subscriber I can’t read it. So I don’t know whether I’m saying they are wrong or not.

    9. Disruptive Telephony Monday, March 23, 2009

      Skype tears down more walls with “Skype For SIP”…

      Would you like Skype users to be able to call your business’ phone system? Would you like to connect your phone system to Skype’s network and make use of their cheap calling rates? If you have an IP-PBX or other……

    10. charlesneville Monday, March 23, 2009

      An unrelated thought – technical viability aside – how much would you pay as a pre minute charge for business Skype calls if you those calls were ‘prioritised’ and therefore less likely to suffer the occasional glitches, delays and drops that often happens with Skype calls?

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