Blog Post

Skype Wants to Power Your Corporate Phone System

Skype today launched Skype Connect, a VoIP service that enables enterprises to connect and use Skype for a corporate telecommunications. The company is leveraging its original consumer voice and video service to ride the wave of IP convergence in a fight for business dollars against the likes of heavyweights such as Avaya and Cisco (s csco). Previous to today’s announcement, Skype Connect 1.0 has been in beta since March 2009, and works with private branch exchange (PBX) and Unified Communications solutions. Enterprises pay a monthly fee of $6.95 per line while outgoing calls to landlines and mobile devices are charged at SkypeOut rates that start at 2.1 cents per minute. Incoming Skype calls are free.

So why the official big move into corporate telephony? For the past half-dozen years, Skype has prepared itself — ahead of the world’s migration — for packet-based communications, starting with its successful consumer offerings. Consumers, however, are more apt to use Skype’s free services like online voice calling and video chat. Out of 560 million registered users of Skype, only 8.1 million are paying customers on a monthly basis, so corporate customers will boost revenue potential. Last week’s news of Google’s (s goog) new phone calls through Gmail feature can’t have gone unnoticed by Skype. While Gmail calls aren’t yet available for Google Apps customers, it’s only a matter of time before Google joins Skype in actively pursuing business budgets with increased corporate features.

For Skype to appeal to the business world, it has to go beyond what the original Skype Connect offered. When it first launched in beta last year, the service was looked upon by some as a simplified and lower-featured version of Skype for Asterisk and essentially just a way for Skype to offer low-cost calling minutes to corporate customers. Now Skype Connect clients can integrate a “click to call” button on a corporate website which customers can tap to get connected to a call center, for example. IT organizations can manage a Skype-powered PBX from any web-connected computer through a browser and the Skype Manager application. Eventually — sooner rather than later if Cisco does indeed purchase Skype as Om noted was a rumored possibility last night — video-conferencing and other value-add features could become further unified within Skype Connect.

Skype says the beta Connect service has attracted more than 2,400 global customers, and it has added real-time, dedicated customer support through Skype chat. Skype Connect is also certified to work with SIP-enabled PBX systems from Avaya, Cisco, SIPFoundry, ShoreTel (s shor), Siemens (s si) and Freetalk, to name a few, and is also supported on older PBX gateways such as those from VoSKY, AudioCodes (s audc) and Grandstream.

I’ve been out of the enterprise world for a few years now, so I’m curious: Who’s ready for Skype to become the corporate phone system? Is anyone else thinking of how the mobile-empowered workforce might benefit from true Skype integration on enterprise handets?

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9 Responses to “Skype Wants to Power Your Corporate Phone System”

  1. Its an interesting move, and some would save long overdue.

    We’ve been using Skype in our company which has offices spread over 4 continents for over a year and it has worked pretty well, slashing our international call bills by 90% in some cases. WHile it has worked pretty well, having to use a PC or a special phone like the RTX Dualphone or the Netgear phone does make it incontinent and as such limits usage to a subset of users.

    We’ve been looking at ways to connect our exchanges directly to simplify the process, Skype connect looks like a very promising solution, depending on how well it works with our existing infrastructure.

    What we really wish for is Skype to be properly implemented in the mobile space. the lack of Blackberry or windows Mobile (Discontinued) Versions means that we can’t do a wide scale deployment of it as most of our corporate phones are Blackberry’s or WM devices with only a few people using Nokia’s and iPhone’s which is unlikely to change in the near future.

  2. I participated in the closed beta of Skype for SIP. Technically, it worked from day one. This was not surprising given that Skype already had significant SIP infrastructure in place for SkypeIn/SkypeOut services. I suspect the long beta stage was more about positioning and marketing.

    What I did regularly ask of the Skype product managers was the ability to dial Skype users directly from SIP, but unfortunately this has yet to come to be. For this to be a fully feature service for maximum value of the monthly rate, I should be able to dial this via SIP:

    [email protected]

    Maybe one day?

  3. The key factors for enterprises are: 1) Control ( who owns the phone number – the business or the employee, e911, call recording, security, routing for contact center applications), 2) Quality, 3) Costs and 4) Simplicity. If the rumors true, Skype as part of Cisco sure sounds disruptive for all those factors in the long-term.

    Google Apps – will a corporate email address initiate a voice call?

    Exciting times for corporate users are ahead. Disruptive times for all the traditional players will continue to march on.

  4. I think that Skype is likely going to stay somewhere around where it is. The integration into Asterisk may help some but I am not sure how much. I would use Asterisk over Skype for production systems any day (as I have for a few years now).

  5. Hiring Skype to provide your enterprise voice service is like flying across the Pacific in a kit plane. Might work…

    Although Skype’s great presence features and huge user base might make them seem unassailable, the world is moving to mobile phones and Skype’s mobile strategy seems based on a Keystone Kops movie. Promise a BlackBerry client for years, then let some third-rate yahoos build a terrible version instead. Create a hobbled one for iPhone. Fail to deliver one for Android, then build one for Verizon Android, then cut off Fring for everyone else.

    If their product execs haven’t been ousted by the PE guys already Skype’s in trouble.