The recent announcement of Skype turning quote-unquote open source has me twirling a finger with delicious glee. It's not that I dislike Skype. And it's not that I'm about to get into one of my 1,500-word debates on the differences between the definition of "free" and "open-source," I promise. This is nevertheless an important premise of Skype's entire move, as some Internet commenters are crying foul that Skype is only half-opening its popular application to the crowd. The GUI code will be yours to play with as you please. The underlying Skype protocol... nope!
To them I say: Duh.
I don't want to put words where they don't exist, but I'm willing to bet that Skype's sudden shift toward open-source waters has more to do with applying a giant, universal band-aid to staggered Linux development. It's not quite an altruistic gift to the community so much as it is a package and a bow with the phrase, "you fix it" written on the label. And that's fine. Let the community create the functional GUIs for Skype. It would be suicide for the company to release its heavily encrypted voice protocols for common use.
Skype announced that an open source version of the Linux client is currently under development in a blog post by Stanislav Karchebny. “There's an open source version of Linux client being developed. This will be a part of a larger offering, but we can't tell you much about that right now," wrote Karchebny.
The original Linux client had been released several years ago, but a new open source client could mean community focused developments. Skype expects that “having an open-source user interface will help us get adopted in the multicultural land of Linux distributions, as well as on other platforms, and will speed up further development.”
Within the comments of the post, users were hoping to see Skype also unlock the Skype Protocol to the open source community. Unless that is part of the “larger offering”, that Karchebny mentions, it appears for the moment that their plans are to open only the source to client interface.
A global phone number is like one assigned by Google Voice: yours to keep wherever you choose to wander. Global numbers came into being when the International Telephone Union (ITU) created the 883 code, which refers to the Internet rather than a country. When the 883 code is used Voxbone gets your call, routes it to the nearest Internet Service Provider (ISP), then disconnects itself so you can use the lower cost service.
How big a deal this is depends on who you ask. Robin Wauters of TechCrunch writes: “We should note there is some industry criticism around the concept of ‘HD calling’, which at times gets billed as a fancy new term that doesn’t describe anything earth-shatteringly new or innovative and something which there is no demand for.”
You know how it goes. There are times when you just need access to one of your favorite apps, but you haven’t got the time or ability to install them on whatever computer you happen to be sitting at. The Portable Apps suite has saved the day on those instances for many. Just today, Portable Apps has announced two welcome additions. You can now get portable versions of Skype and Google Chrome.
This is notable because these apps aren’t technically open-source, as previous additions to Portable Apps have been. The decision to include freeware software may not seem like a big deal, and to most it isn’t, but some open-source supporters may take issue. The new freeware apps aren’t included by default in the package, though. Like it or not, it’s nice to have choices.
Lenovo has let it be known that every single ThinkPad laptop and ThinkCentre desktop PC will come with Skype already installed.
"If you're fortunate enough to get your hands on a Lenovo ThinkPad or ThinkCentre for your home or office, be sure to keep an eye out for Skype," said Peter Parkes, Skype's chief blogger.
That's great news for private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, who bought a 65 percent share of the company last month and would like nothing more than to see Skype's market share continue to grow. While terms of the Lenovo deal have not been disclosed, there's a reason why software companies pay tidy sums to have their apps come pre-installed on OEM systems.
As for consumers, you can view it as another piece of bloatware to be nuked after first firing up your new PC, or a handy pre-install of an app you may already use anyway.
AT&T announced today that they’ll be enabling the use of VOIP on their 3G network specifically for the iPhone. Skype was extremely excited to hear the news given that 10% of all iPhone and iPod touch users have downloaded the Skype application.
The announcement was initially released by AT&T in an FCC filing, soon to be published, explaining that they will open their 3G network to internet calling applications, including Skype.
It should be interesting to see where this leaves the much debated Google Voice application, rejected from the Apple App store earlier this year. While AT&T’s decision isn’t as sustainable as a government policy, it should put significant pressure on other carriers to allow similar network access.
Some of the calls you make to landlines via Skype will soon be free. That's because after testing its click-to-call ads on the Web for several months, Skype today announced it is rolling out the new business-funded product in a partnership with European Directories.
"Partnering with European Directories is a key part of bringing our new business funded click-to-call product to market and providing advertisers with solutions that can help them connect with customers in new and innovative ways," said Don Albert, GM and VP of Americas and Advertising for Skype. "When a call is free and only one click away, we believe it can have a positive impact for a business because there are fewer barriers to start a call. That can result in more qualified leads, more engagement, and possibly a higher rate of conversion for a business."
Calls that are funded by a business will be highlighted with a blue "Free Call" button that appears anywhere online where a phone number is displayed, Skype explained. This includes search engines, internet yellow pages, and local search sites.
A couple of weeks after eBay agreed to sell 65% of Skype to a group of investors, the founders of Skype, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, contrived to gatecrash eBay’s party. Joltid, a company in which the two Skype founders are stakeholders, filed a copyright lawsuit on Wednesday against Skype. Skype's founders retained control over the peer-to-peer technology at the VoIP client’s core even after selling Skype to eBay for $2.6 billion. They had agreed to license the source code to eBay.
Joltid has accused eBay of unlawfully modifying and sharing the source code. An adverse decision could even force eBay to shut down Skype until it can come up with an alternative version. The San Jose-based internet company has said that it is making arrangements to face any such eventuality. However, the presence of a contingency plan should not be construed as a lack of confidence on its part. “We remain on track to close the transaction in the fourth quarter of 2009,” an eBay spokesperson said.
According to the New York Times, Ebay today is expected to announce a deal to sell off Skype to a group of private investors, which are likely to include Andreessen Horowitz, a new venture capital firm spearheaded by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen. At least two other investors are said to be part of the group.
If it happens, the sale will mark the end of a rather uneventful four-year run since Ebay acquired Skype in 2005. All told, Ebay has forked over more than $3.1 billion on the venture, much higher than what many consider the VoIP service is worth.
An interesting side-story to the potential deal is whether or not Skype's founders -- Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Fiis -- are involved. The two developers had approached private equity firms earlier this year and hoped to make a bid for their old company, but Ebay wanted more than what was being offered. No price has been disclosed on the potential deal now being reported, although Skype has said it wants in the neighborhood of $2 billion.
VoIP service Skype said it recently reached the 15 million concurrent user mark, claiming 405 million Skype users in all. But what's even more impressive is how quickly the service is growing. Skype estimates it adds 380,000 new users each day. To put that number into perspective, Ross Storey, Managing Editor at Fairfax Business Media, points out that over a 12 day period, the number of users Skype adds is equivalent to the population of Singapore.
Skype announced the figures in Signapore during the launch of the new Skype 4.0 software, which the company calls "the most exciting and fundamental change to Skype's software in the company's history." Even more exciting for the company is recording the eighth consecutive quarter of profit, in which Skype earned $45 million in Q4 2008. This is thanks in large part to a third of its registered subscribers using the service for business purposes.
"In this type of environment people are looking for cost savings wherever they can find them, they are looking to 'recession-proof' their businesses," said Dan Neary, Skype's new VP and GM. "hey don't want to fly from A to B, they want to do video-conferencing. More and more, this offering is becoming applicable for people in business."
Last month, a rumor surfaced suggested Ebay was shopping around its Skype service, showing particular interest in selling to Google. If Skype keeps up these kinds of numbers, it's hard to imagine Google, or anyone else, not being interested.