Gizmo5, the company behind the formerly known as SIPphone, is launching a new gateway that allows people using any VoIP service to call Skype users and vice versa. This free Skype gateway is called OpenSky. It is typical of Michael Robertson, the man behind Gizmo, to come up with a disruptive solution that removes the barriers between VoIP services and Skype. In an email, Robertson explains:
What we’ve done is create a SIP alias for every Skype user. So if you want to call a Skype user named echo123 you simply dial firstname.lastname@example.org from any SIP aware device (which is just about every piece of VOIP equipment). Users can even have any SIP call forwarded to their Skype address using my.gizmo5.com.
All calls up to five minutes are free, while longer calls are going to cost you money. For $20 annual fee you can make a call that can last up to two hours. There are many ways to connect. For instance, you can use the Gizmo softphone and dial email@example.com, or you can go to the web site to initiate calls. Robertson writes:
I think the most popular user segment could be businesses not consumers. Whether businesses spend millions on a Cisco Call Manager system or install the free Asterisk based Trixbox they all share one thing in common – they cannot call to the Skype network. Now with OpenSky they can call businesses because they can use our gateway.
The way I see it, the service will be particularly useful when dialing long distance to countries where the call rates are pretty high. A typical example would be where you can make a local call from the U.S. to a Skype user in India for a price that is cheaper than dirt. Beyond such international call scenarios, I am not quite sold just yet on the extra steps needed to make a call to a Skype user.
Given that Skype-to-phone calls are not really that expensive, I wonder if non-techie consumers are really going to bother signing up for this service. My past experiences with Gizmo have been mixed – it is always innovating in terms of features but the quality has been somewhat lacking. I gave up on the service once the $99 unlimited wireless plans were introduced in the U.S., as they obviated the need to look for cheap calling options.
The new OpenSky service would be great to call my Skype-using friends overseas from my mobile phone. Using any plain ole mobile phone, you send an SMS to OpenSky with the Skype name and seconds later the system calls you back and connects you to that Skype user.