Interop: Skype Eyes The Channel

In his keynote address at Interop Las Vegas 2009, Skype General Manager and Vice President Stefan Oberg said that as Skype's traction grows among business users, the company will build a channel program through which it will offer enhanced services such as support, integration with third-party applications and interoperability.

Oberg didn't say exactly when Skype's program will launch, but said it is in the early stages.

For Skype, an eBay-owned Web-based communications tool for VoIP, videoconferencing and other communications applications, turning to the channel comes as its use in business is growing. Oberg said 35 percent of Skype's roughly 443 million users are using it in a business setting.

Skype's penetration in businesses is part of what Oberg called the "consumerization of IT."

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"It used to be that anything Web-based wasn't considered business-grade," he said, adding that consumer technologies are now getting robust enough to be deployed in business settings. "It's moving from individual adoption to business adoption."

Skype's move into business settings comes as companies look to save money, boost productivity and stay ahead of the technology curve. Oberg said businesses are enticed by free Skype-to-Skype calls and low-cost calls from Skype to landlines and other phones.

Oberg said among Skype's business users, 20 percent use video for business purposes, 95 percent are saving money over their traditional phone systems, 80 percent see productivity gains and 70 percent use it while traveling for business.

Additionally, Skype recently launched two corporate tools, Skype for SIP and Skype for Asterisk, which leverage corporate VoIP systems to enable companies to make and receive Skype calls.

According to Oberg, Skype also is continuing to broaden its availability. He said in the very near future, roughly 90 percent of smartphones, including BlackBerry devices and the Apple iPhone, will have Skype available for download.