Skype's business chops may appeal to Cisco's UC ambitions

Skype Connect 1.0, which connects Skype to PBX and unified communications systems, further distinguishes Skype as a business tool

Amid rumors of being eyed for acquisition by Cisco, Skype has officially launched Skype Connect 1.0, a box that connects PBX and unified communication systems to the company's popular peer-to-peer VoIP service.

The release of Skype Connect 1.0 -- formerly in beta as Skype for SIP -- may shed some light on why Cisco might be interested in picking up Skype. Just as Google is no longer just a search company, Cisco is certainly more than a networking company. Rather, it has steadily expanded its communications and collaboration portfolio over the years with such mergers and acquisitions as WebEx, telepresence company Tandberg, and IM purveyor Jabber, not to mention a dozen VoIP companies between 1997 and 2006.

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Skype takes a peer-to-peer approach to VoIP that could complement Cisco's existing communication arsenal: Rather than processing calls on a central server, the work is done on the connected clients (or, in Skype-speak, the nodes), making for a more scalable system. Skype also plays well with SIP, which Cisco current uses for it IP telephony line.

The official release of Skype Connect 1.0 sweetens Skype's business appeal -- and perhaps its appeal to Cisco: The box connects to existing PBXes, routing outgoing calls over Skype's peer-to-peer network and incoming calls to an organization's existing office infrastructure. Admins can use Skype Connect to manage Skype calls using existing PBX or UC systems' features, such as call routing, automatic call distribution, conferencing, auto-attendant, voicemail, call recording, and logging.

The product is certified to support PBX and UC products from Avaya, Cisco, SIPfoundry, ShoreTel, and other OEMs.

Also notable: Skype is supported on mobile platforms, such as Apple's iOS, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile, an important element in the kind of broad UC offering Cisco presumably wants to provide.

Also likely of interest to a would-be suitor such as Cisco: Skype has proven itself successful at appealing to both home users and business users. The company has seen its subscriber base swell over the years; the service took on 39 million new registered users in the Q4 for a total of 560 million, and 35 percent of users utilize it for business purposes, according to Gigaom.

Thus, an acquisition of Skype means that Cisco would not only have a broader array of offerings; it would also take on an expanded customer base that might be wooed into adopting additional Cisco technology.

This article, "Skype's business chops may appeal to Cisco's UC ambitions," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.