Skype Now Means Business, Friends the SIP World

Updated: Skype, a division of beleaguered eBay (s 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?