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Summary:

Close on the heels of its new iPhone app that allows calls over 3G, Skype will launch an updated version for Nokia N900 that would all two-way video calls. Skype’s growth strategy includes focus on growing mobile video calling, thanks to the availability of 2-way cameras.

If you are one of the few thousand people who own a Nokia N900, then sometime later this week Skype is going to offer you a ability to make two-way video calls on that device. You would be able to call any Skype user (whether on desktop or laptop) and have a two-way video communication, Russ Shaw, Skype’s vice president of Skype Mobile told GigaOM. Eventually you will be able to call other mobile clients and also to Skype-on-TV.

Shaw said that it was part of their ongoing close relationship with Nokia. Nokia N900 has dual cameras — one in the front and one in the back. The calls would work on both 3G and WiFi networks, though I bet the performance is going to be far superior on WiFi. Some of the smaller VoIP players such as Fring have already launched video calling enabled apps.

“We are going to do video calling across all our platforms and are agnostic about the operating system and carriers,” Shaw said. In other words, if the new iPhone (version 4) features dual cameras, then Skype is going to make its software work with iPhone. In a recent poll conducted by the company, an overwhelming 43 percent of Skype users said that they wanted mobile video.

Ironically, on Friday afternoon when I spoke to Shaw, he was unclear when company would launch its Skype-over-3G app for the iPhone, arguing that the company didn’t want to release any product that disappointed customers. And 24-hours later the app was available from the Apple’s iTunes App store. (For now these calls are free but eventually Skype is going to be charging folks for calls over 3G, which tells me they are using a solution very similar to the one they cobbled together for Skype-over-Verizon. For an alternate explanation, check out Andy Abramson’s post who thinks the magic is Skype’s SILK codec and working intimately with Apple hardware.)

Shaw said that the company was focused on seamless switching between 3G and WiFi. Anyway that app seems to have met its goals, prompting even their harsh critics to give it a thumbs up. Skype data shows that the company has seen 12 million downloads from the owners of iPhone and iPod Touch.

Shaw also confirmed that the official Android Skype app will be available before the end of the year. Skype was focusing on iPhone, Symbian and Android OS devices, Shaw said. In other words, Windows Phone and WebOS don’t figure in the company’s plans for now. “We are not doing anything directly on Palm but if a carrier wanted to do that, we can work with them,” he said. It was part of company’s strategy to take a cue from carriers on operating systems with a smaller footprint compared to the big three.

What about RIM? Shaw said that a lot of people want an over-the-top application. Verizon subscribers can get Skype on their Blackberry devices, thanks to a special relationship between the two companies. In other words, for now, all Blackberry owners who want Skype are out of luck.

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  1. Yeah, Fring has had this on Symbian phones since last November.

    As for the N900, I believe there are at least 100K of them in circulation.

  2. By the end of the year for Android is too late in my opinion. Others will be pulled into that vacuum. Prioritizing Nokia over Android was a mistake for that video feature if you ask me.

    Tal

    1. “Prioritizing Nokia over Android was a mistake for that video feature if you ask me.”

      Unlike iPhone and Android, where Skype app is a normal 3rd party app, made entirely by Skype company, on N900 Skype is tightly integrated into the Maemo OS and mostly done by Nokia (albeit with some Skype’s support)…

      Unless you are talking about the Symbian version of Skype, which is a different story…

  3. Actually, two-way video calling on N900 was available at least a week before it was even announced on iPhone! Please get your facts straight!

    1. Denix

      Pardon me, but are you in a beta program? I think when Skype exec tells me that they are launching it this week, well I am going to take his word over yours. So from that standpoint, I do have my facts right.

      And secondly, two way calling on iPhone is not available.

      1. I wish I was part of a beta program! :)

        No, the Video Calling in Skype came to N900 as part of PR1.2 firmware. It was available in Asia since early May and rolled OTA globally last week:

        http://themeegoblog.com/2010/05/24/the-n900-finally-gets-the-pr-1-2-firmware/
        http://www.allaboutmaemo.com/news/item/11574_N900_PR_12_update_incoming.php
        http://www.fonearena.com/blog/17612/nokia-n900-finally-getting-pr-1-2-firmware-update-today.html

        BTW, two-way video in Google Talk was available before, although you could not initiate such calls, only receive them… They also say video support was also added to SIP calls in PR1.2, but I haven’t tried them yet.

        I don’t really know why Skype exec gave you wrong info, but looks like they are after mass market to make money (charging for Skype-to-Skype calls over 3G on iPhone starting in September?)

        And you are right, iPhone cannot even do two-way video calling due to the lack of front-facing camera (yet?) – I referred to the yesterday-announced 2.0 Skype for iPhone, which brings voice calling over 3G…

        1. Interesting — I will check in and see why they said so. Appreciate your feedback and update.

    2. “BTW, two-way video in Google Talk was available before, although you could not initiate such calls, only receive them…”

      You got me there Denix. Can you elaborate more on this very strange one. Though again I admit for not knowing anything about it.

      1. There is nothing to it – go to http://google.com/talk and install Google Talk Video chat plug-in (available for Windows and Mac). Then you can call someone on N900 and have a two-way video chat. Unfortunately, you can’t initiate Google Talk video call from N900, for some reason…

      2. generationally tal Monday, May 31, 2010

        You can initiate Google Talk video call from N900. In the contacts application, you need to go to Settings and make sure that the ‘Display video calling option’ is checked. Then whenever one of your Google contacts is online with a camera enabled device, you get the option to initiate a video call and can initiate a Google Talk video call just fine.

      3. @generationally,

        Hmm, interesting. I just checked the Settings in the Contacts app and I do have “Display video calling option” enabled. But I still cannot initiate the video call from N900 to video-enabled Google Talk contact. Do I also need to run a separate client on Windows? As I’m only running it in a browser with Video plugin…

      4. generationally tal Tuesday, June 1, 2010

        @denix,

        I just need to open Gmail in Firefox on my Mac (which has the GoogleTalk Video plugin enabled) and as soon as I’m logged in to Gmail then the GoogleTalk video call option shows up on the N900 under my own contact info. Also other contacts show the video call option if they are at a video enabled device.

        So it seems to work for me at least…

  4. Denix is correct, Skype and Google Talk video calling has been available since the release of the 1.2 firmware revision. I was confused when I saw this article online, now I see Skype gave you bad information.

  5. Skype and Nokia have a carrier-agnostic agreement. Skype chooses not to allow the OVI Store in the USA to download it’s Symbian client. I wonder if they’ll try to make Symbian users pay for 3G skype calls or if it continue to be free.

  6. There are actually a lot more than 100,000, those recent figures were actually over a 5 week period not 5 month it just takes web news a while to catch up(if they will at all).

    Skype on N900 will be interesting although I have used video calling on the Hutchison 3G network for years with many different phones.

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