Skype is getting very interesting

A few weeks ago, I joined the Skype beta testing program for their planned voice messaging service. It is good!

In case you haven’t heard of Skype yet, in a nutshell it’s an internet phone service that enables you to speak with other Skype users anywhere in the world for free, and optionally call normal phones at costs that are significantly less than using your normal phone. You download the free Skype software – there are versions for Windows, Pocket PC, Mac and Linux – set up your account and you’re ready to go.

I’ve been using Skype since last July, and nothing beats it in my experience. Indeed, I now use it for all phone calls I make to numbers outside The Netherlands and I’ve seen my regular phone bill consistently decrease month after month. It just saves you money. It’s a no brainer!

Now, to the interesting developments:

1. Skype voice messaging service

If Skype does launch this after the testing period is done, I’d say they will have a winner from their business point of view, and Skype users will have an excellent additional service.

In effect, the voice messaging service is your internet answering service. It means that another Skype user can call you when you’re offline and leave you a voicemail. You can set it up so that if someone calls you when you’re already on a call, the new call diverts to your voicemail, just as you might do now with, say, your mobile phone. Not only that, you can directly send someone a voice message (ie, you don’t have to call them), similar in concept to sending a text message.

This service adds a rich dimension to the Skype offering and will make it broader in appeal – not only can you call people but you’ll also be able to leave or send messages. And they will be able to do the same with you.

When will it be available and how much will it cost? No news from Skype yet on either of those questions. My guess is that if the service is rolled out, it will likely be sometime in Q2. And it will be a pay-for service. While I do believe it will be highly appealing to users, much will depend on price.

2. Text messaging to/from mobile phones

Stuart Henshall has detailed information on setting up your Skype account and your mobile phone to be able to use your mobile phone to send SMS text messages to other Skype users, via a third-party service. Why would you want to do that? Well, imagine you’re out and need to contact a Skype user. Without your computer, you can’t make a call. But now you can send an SMS to that person and, for instance, ask them to call you. Just another way to keep in contact.

Just to be clear, the service is a third-party offering, not from Skype.

And from Bill Campbell, I learned about a way in which you can send SMS messages via Skype’s instant messaging function to a GSM mobile phone, at a cost significantly less than the typical rates mobile operators charge for text messaging.

Again, as a third-party offering (from a company called Connectotel), all it requires is that you add an SMS gateway as a Skype contact and send your text messages from Skype via that (leave a comment in this post with your email address if you’d like details).

The cost is 5 cents US per message. That’s about 4 eurocents. This looks like another no brainer when you compare costs for SMS messaging with your mobile operator’s tariff. For instance, I use Vodafone in The Netherlands; their cheapest rate for sending text messages is 9 eurocents (about 12 cents US). And that’s the price within this country – it goes up substantially for messages sent to foreign numbers.

When you combine third-party offerings such as these with what Skype itself is doing, it makes the overall Skype offering very interesting indeed. If I were a telco, I’d be getting quite concerned by now. Or more interested, perhaps, as Skype might make a nice strategic acquisition for one of the cash-rich phone companies looking to lead a break-out from the rest of the pack.

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17 thoughts on “Skype is getting very interesting

  1. What a great idea.
    I’m going to have to look into this for the summer. I’ll be studying in London and was starting to contemplate the best way to stay in touch with people here.
    I especially like the option of skipping the live chat and leaving a voicemail. Sometimes you hope that you’ll get a person’s voicemail without the big conversation, and this could ensure that.
    I’m sure I will be wanting to spend my time on other things than the phone.

  2. Hi Dominko. I think the SMS > phone service isn’t fully ready yet so the details I currently have aren’t the latest. We’ll need to wait until there’s more information.

  3. Welcome to marcomblog, by the way! We heard in class today that you were joining us and I’m excited to have your tech-ish perspective!

  4. Geek News Central Podcast #36 2005-2-4

    Great show for you with lots of content and you will all get to meet the professor tonight. He is a whacked out dude that will be introducing the show. Did you get a Skype Voice mail invite and do…

  5. Hi Neville,
    Please sent me some details on the Skype-to-SMS service. I’ve tested the Connectotel SMS-to-Skype service, and it worked fine but in your post you refer to Skype-to-SMS via Connectotel while their site states that they’re still working on the release of this (although they also state that it’s been done)
    Thanks in advance,

  6. Hello Neville,
    Can you please send me more info on the Connectotel Skype-to-SMS service?
    Greatly appreciated 🙂

  7. Peter and Tony – I don’t now have any useful information, unfortunately.
    As I mentioned in a previous comment here, I think the SMS > phone service isn’t fully ready yet so the details I currently have aren’t the latest. We’ll need to wait until there’s more information.

  8. Skype

    I’ve been using Skype regularly for about a month and I think its great. Stuart Henshall points out another piece of functinality that allows you to send text message to skype users – asking them to call you back!
    The great think about Skype, apart…

  9. At I have created a directory of all the third party Skype add-ons, Skype phones and Skype communities that I can find.
    I have already collected ~150 different links.
    What I’ve found most astonishing is the rate at which new add-ons, phones and communities keep appearing. I believe that I’m witnessing the creation and evolution of a Skype business ecosystem. I’ve already found 3 competing Skype-Outlook integrations!
    I believe that if Skype can successfully manage and leverage this ecosystem they will certainly achieve a lasting competitive advantage.


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