BlackBerry Scores Small Win With Skype

BlackBerry said that Skype will finally be available to its BlackBerry 10 smartphones beginning in May.
BlackBerry 10: Visual Tour Of Smartphones, OS
BlackBerry 10: Visual Tour Of Smartphones, OS
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Each week, BlackBerry announces a slew of new applications that have been added to the BlackBerry World app store. The intent is to at once inform owners of BlackBerry smartphones what's available, but also to let BlackBerry crow a little bit about its accomplishments. This week's accomplishment was a bit bigger than previous weeks'.

BlackBerry announced that Skype will be available for both the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 sometime next month. The exact timing is unclear; BlackBerry said only that Skype will pop up in BlackBerry World at about the same time the Q10 goes on sale. The Q10 is expected to go on sale in the U.S. by the end of May (with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless).

Of the many marquee apps absent from BlackBerry World since BlackBerry's new platform launched earlier this year, Skype was one of the most notable. It's been a mobile professional mainstay for nearly a decade. Skype is already available to Android, iOS and Windows devices (Microsoft bought Skype in 2011). It is no small victory that BlackBerry was able to get Microsoft to commit to delivering the app to its fledgling smartphone platform.

[ Initial reviews sing the praises of the Q10's keyboard. See BlackBerry Q10: The QWERTY Phone To Beat. ]

Skype's main calling point (pun intended) is that it lets users make free Skype-to-Skype calls through the Internet. Though it's not all that important a tool within the U.S. now that long-distance fees (and to a lesser extent, mobile voice minutes) are a thing of the past, Skype is essential for controlling costs when traveling abroad. Using local Internet connections, travelers can dial up Skype users at the home office for free and avoid paying for costly roaming minutes. Skype also lets users conduct live two-way video calls and instant-messaging chats.

These features are already available on the Z10 and Q10 without Skype; BlackBerry's own BlackBerry Messenger does all three. Some of these features are duplicated by yet other apps, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Viber. Skype, however, has far more mindshare when it comes to providing VoIP-based communications: It boasts some 280 million monthly users, many of whom are mobile.

Skype may be just one app added to a pool of 100,000, but garnering support from Skype is still a victory worth celebrating for BlackBerry. It dramatically improves BlackBerry's enterprise pitch and gives the platform a bit more legitimacy.

BlackBerry still has a long tough road to travel. The Z10 went on sale earlier this year, and so far the company has indicated that more than one million have been sold. The Q10 is reaching Canada and other markets this month and U.S. carriers before June. During its first quarter of the year, Apple sold some 36 million iPhones, and Google activated nearly 100 million Android devices.

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