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Skype Takes Mac, Linux VoIP Software Mainstream

By Jennifer LeClaire MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Feb 1, 2005 9:09 AM PT

Skype Technologies today released the first version of its Internet telephony software applications for Mac OS X and Linux in efforts to add new users to its global network. The move comes at a time when telecommunications giants are scrambling to expand into new markets.

Skype Takes Mac, Linux VoIP Software Mainstream

Company executives hope the new software will spur continued growth for the 17-month old Skype. The company reports that more than 140,000 new users register each day, far surpassing the growth rate of traditional telecoms that are entrenched in the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) race.

Free or Fee

"We encourage all Mac OS X and Linux users to experience the cost and quality gains with version 1.0 Skype software," Niklas Zennstrom, Skype CEO and co-founder, said. "We thank all those who downloaded the beta products as we were developing; your support has been fantastic. We will remain committed to innovation and will continue to expand platform choice."

Research consultancy Atlantic-ACM predicts the retail VoIP market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 64 percent through 2009.

Even though the Mac and Linux services are free, analysts said Skype is well positioned to cash in with its separate for-fee service. These free services could provide the company more exposure to paying customers that drive revenue for the firm.

"Skype is an interesting company," Aaron Nutt, Atlantic-ACM VoIP analyst told MacNewsWorld. "The way Skype evolved is much more like an Internet company than a telecommunications company. Skype is a pioneer operating with the original intent of the Internet."

Telecommunications giants like AT&T, SBC and Verizon are also playing in the VoIP market, along with Cablevision. These companies are spending billions building networks, buying each other out and wooing new customers. Skype, meanwhile, is a niche player that attracts users with its freebie status.

Bird's Eye View

Skype's software for Mac and Linux includes free Skype-to-Skype calling and conference calling for up to five participants, cross-platform communications, rich presence and personalization features, and the pre-pay SkypeOut service, allowing users to call any landline or mobile worldwide for the price of a local call.

Skype also offers a Global Directory with search options and an "add-a-contact" tool. Instant Messaging (IM), conference calling, call and IM logs, customization, file transfer, and end-to-end encryption are also part of the functional feature set.

However, despite all the functional features, analysts said Skype can still only compete as a niche player. Free will always be attractive to some users, Nutt said, but ultimately the mainstream market doesn't want to use their computer as a phone.

"In the long-run, VoIP will eventually replace the traditional telecommunications infrastructure," Nutt said. "And in the long run it will be the large companies that win out."

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