Skype shows BlackBerry, iPhone applications

Peer-to-peer software company sees itself playing a growing role on mobile phones even as carriers themselves move toward VoIP

Skype unveiled its iPhone and BlackBerry applications at the CTIA Wireless trade show on Tuesday, taking its VoIP capability into the inner sanctum of mobile operators that still depend on voice minutes for most of their revenue.

The peer-to-peer software company sees itself playing a growing role on mobile phones even as carriers themselves move toward VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) over fourth-generation data networks. Its loyal user base will give it an edge over any VoIP service a carrier is likely to offer, Skype Chief Operating Officer Scott Durschlag said at a news conference. The latest applications are part of the first stage in Skype's strategy, which will progress from downloadable software, to preloading by handset makers, to carriers themselves offering Skype.

[ Related: "At last, Skype set to launch iPhone application." | Get the latest on mobile developments with InfoWorld's Mobile Report newsletter. ]

The BlackBerry software will be available in May as a download for the BlackBerry Bold and Curve handsets, with other models supported later, Durschlag said. The iPhone application, available now from Apple's App Store, lets AT&T subscribers make both free calls to their Skype contacts and inexpensive calls over the SkypeOut service to other phones. But the application officially only works over Wi-Fi.

And though both applications support Skype messaging, they don't offer video calls. Skype has mastered good-quality audio for mobiles but hasn't yet cracked the technical problem of good video over the devices, which will require optimization of the carriers' networks and other steps, Durschlag said.

Though Palm's upcoming Pre handset was pictured in a slide at the press conference, Skype will wait to see how well that phone sells before committing to write software for it, he said.

There are already Palm applications for several other mobile platforms, including Android and Windows Mobile.

Skype hopes to allow Canadian iPhone users to make calls soon, Durschlag said. Today they have a limited set of Skype capabilities because of a problem involving interpretation of a patent, he said.

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