Engadget interviews Skype

Engadget has a lengthy interview with Skype co-founder and CEO Niklas Zennström about the future of voice communication, using Skype through wi-fi handhelds, and the coming death of the telecom dinosaurs.

(A reminder of what Skype is – free software that lets you make free phone calls from your computer to other Skype users anywhere in the world, and paid-for calls to any normal or mobile telephone anywhere in the world. I’ve been using it for the past three months and it is good indeed. The paid-for call rate is astonishingly low, making it a highly-attractive proposition.)

Choice interview Q&A:

How many Skype users are there, and how fast is it growing?
We have 2 million users in the US and about 13 million worldwide in more than 200 countries. We’re getting 80,000 new users each day. And more than half a million people are connected via Skype at any given moment. In fact, we just surpassed our first 1 million simultaneous users online. The average call time is over 6 minutes – longer than traditional phone calls.

You recently unveiled Skype WiFi. How does that take your company in new directions?
We decided to make Skype available on multiple platforms and independent of the PC. People need to access Skype wirelessly, no matter where they are, and what happens is that we’ll be taking advantage of the rollout of Internet everywhere – WiFi and WiMax in particular. We started with Pocket PC, and now we’re looking at other mobile platforms like Windows SmartPhone, Symbian and Palm. We don’t have any launch dates yet for any of those platforms. It’s going to be wonderful to be able to make a Skype call from cell phones or PDAs.

So the idea is that anyone in a WiFi cloud can make a free Internet voice call to other Skype users using their Pocket PC?
Right. At no charge, if they both have the software installed. Or by using SkypeOut if they need to call a land line or mobile at low rates.

Have you considered incorporating Skype into other applications? For example, wouldn’t it be cool to integrate it with your Outlook contacts?
Exactly. We’re talking with third-party developers to integrate their applications with Skype.

The Engadget Interview: Niklas Zennstrom