Back to the future with Skype

Robert Clark
22 Oct 2007

The golden rule of innovation is that if you face a disruptive technology, disrupt yourself early and quickly.

3 seems to have taken that lesson to heart in its embrace of VoIP.

The mobile carrier is reportedly developing a Skype phone which will provide IDD calls at Skype's rates of a few cents a minute.

The client software is being developed by iSkoot, a US developer who has supplied the VoIP client for 3's X-series, which enables VoIP calls over Wi-Fi.

iSkoot, Skype's preferred developer for mobile, already offers free beta downloads of clients for dozens of smartphones on its web site.

The iPhone's success has reminded the industry of the importance of the device, but the fact that Apple is going to market with operators also reminds that service providers still dominate channel.

iSkoot clients are installed on more than 200 Windows-powered phones as well as on the new Sony Ericsson phone. But clearly a hook-up with an operators is much more attractive because they own the billing relationship with the customer.

BusinessWeek reports that 3 will launch the new Skype phones in Hong Kong, UK, Australia and Italy.

It also correctly notes that, whereas the iPhone is all about bringing a new user experience to the cellular table, the Skype phone is all about low-cost voice.

That's familiar territory for 3, which virtually from the outset has used 3G to sell buckets of local voice minutes. The Skype phone means it can offer the same for IDD.

It's not hot and sexy like the iPhone, and it means losing more roaming revenues. In return 3 gets access to some of Skype's huge user base and, quite possibly, a fast break over rivals not yet willing to eat their own lunch.

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