Skype Aims to Wend Its Way Into Gadgetry With New SDK

The top dog in Internet telephony is set to expand its reach with the release of new development software. SkypeKit is aimed at allowing software writers to integrate the Net phone service into a variety of consumer electronics devices and computer software programs.

“For nearly seven years, Skype has revolutionized communications through software that offers not only free voice and video calling, but also low-cost calls to phone numbers anywhere in the world,” Skype’s General Manager for Platform Business Jonathan Christensen wrote in the company’s Developer Zone blog.

“Now,” he continued, “we are taking Skype into new directions by empowering consumer electronic and desktop software innovators to embed Skype into their products through the availability of our new software development kit (SDK) called ‘SkypeKit.'”

While Skype has had an open source application interface available to developers for some time, he explained, that API needed Skype’s desktop software to function. For years now, he continued, developers have been looking for a solution that works without the desktop app.

“Think of SkypeKit as a ‘headless’ version of Skype — that is, a Skype client with no user interface that runs invisibly, not only on PCs, but also TVs, notebooks, and other connected devices,” he elaborated. “Developers communicate with SkypeKit through the SkypeKit API, surfacing Skype calls through their own applications.”

Plug In the Good Stuff

According to Phil Wolff, managing editor of the Skype Journal, based in Oakland, Calif., the ability to embed Skype functionality into devices and software has been high on the wish lists of developers for years.

“This lets developers who want to put communication into gadgets or who want to put it into their software to take all the good stuff that’s inside of Skype and just plug it in,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Skype, he said, is already available in a number of ways — Windows, Mac OS X and Linux computers, mobile phones, desktop phones and TV sets. “All that happened either inside of Skype or with a handful of partners close to Skype,” he noted.

“This is the first step toward opening that up,” he continued, “so if you have an idea for something, you don’t need to partner closely with Skype.”

“What Skype gets out of this is more people using Skype,” he added. “Developers get to bring the subject matter they know about into the design of how people interact with Skype.”

Smart Business Move

Introduction of SkypeKit is an important business move by Skype, according to Irene Berlinsky, a senior research analyst for IDC in Framingham, Mass. “They’re doing something necessary for their business to grow,” she told TechNewsWorld.

“They’re very successful in terms of their worldwide PC-installed base,” she continued. “That can only grow so much because people aren’t going to be always calling from their PC and don’t always want to be next to a broadband connection when they make a call.”

She maintained that Skype wants to be ubiquitous in the IP telephony space. “They’re trying to get themselves used as widely as possible,” she observed.

“As consumer communications becomes increasingly fragmented — as people use their landlines, their computer connection, their mobile phone, their mobile phone over WiFi and now the explosion of the tablet space with the iPad — I think Skype just wants to be on every platform that is IP or network enabled,” she said.

“It’s a very smart move for them to open this up,” she added. “It can only really help them. It can only increase their user base and increase the platforms that users can access Skype from.”

Challenged by Google?

At the same time SkypeKit was released, Google announced the general availability of its Voice application to its U.S. users, a move that could be seen as a challenge to Skype.

“Any market that Google is in is one it should be taken seriously,” Berlinsky remarked.

“Google Voice has features that make it a very attractive service,” she said. “What Skype has, though, is a larger global user base, and people still think of Skype when they think of making free or cheap online calls, especially internationally.”

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