Software // Enterprise Applications
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10/18/2007
02:26 PM
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Skype-Based Cell Phone Set To Debut

The eBay subsidiary will work with U.K.-based 3 Mobile to release the "white phone" later this month in four countries.

Skype and a U.K. wireless carrier are working together to bring to market a new product to make Skype completely mobile, the company confirmed on Thursday.

Skype, which provides a cheap voice over IP calling service, is set to launch a customized cell phone developed jointly with wireless carrier 3 Mobile. The phone, code-named "white phone," is set to launch later this month in Britain, Italy, Hong Kong, and Australia, and will reach other markets after that, according to a report by BusinessWeek. The companies may license the technology specifications to other carriers or sell versions directly to consumers in the U.S., the report said.

InformationWeek was able to reach Skype for comment, but the company's spokesman didn't confirm reports of a phone or provide additional details. However, he did say that Skype is collaborating with a wireless carrier on a new product and that the move will mark a radical step forward in mobilizing Internet calls for a mass market.

It is indeed a radical step forward, since until recently wireless carriers have resisted the idea of mobile VoIP. Carriers, for example, have requested that manufacturers exclude features like Wi-Fi in cell phones to prevent customers from making free or cheap VoIP calls using hotspots instead of cellular networks. Phones with built-in Wi-Fi are now more abundantly available in the U.S., but many still have the VoIP calling capability disabled.

Skype already offers a mobile version of its software on the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet and smartphones running Windows Mobile 5.0. In August, Shape Services, a software provider for mobile platforms, launched a version of Skype for the iPhone. This particular Skype client is Web-based so it can work on the iPhone's browser.

While it's not certain if Skype's new product involves a cell phone that offers a desktop-like experience for making VoIP calls, it makes sense for Skype to take matters into its own hands to mobilize VoIP instead of waiting for U.S. carriers to warm up to the idea.

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