2009 in Mobile
Russ Shaw is General Manager of our mobile business.
As the year draws to a close, I thought I’d do two things – first, introduce myself to readers of our blog, and second, talk a little bit about our mobile strategy. Peter tells me there are quite a few of you (hundreds of thousands, in fact) and I realise it’s been a while since we’ve talked on this blog about what we’re up to in the mobile world. So, hence this post.
Scott Durchslag blogged at length back in March about where we were at, and so I want to pick up some of the threads he began then. Our mobile strategy has three strands: first, what we call ‘direct to consumer’ apps (i.e., ones you can download yourself from the Skype website or a partner), such as Skype for iPhone. Second, working with mobile operators like 3 to deliver great experiences and free Skype-to-Skype calls on a wide range of phones. Third, working with hardware manufacturers like Nokia to develop truly integrated products, where Skype is built in to devices’ operating systems. Let’s take each of those strands in order:
Skype for iPhone
We’re very happy with our iPhone app. But, like any of our products, that doesn’t mean we’re done. We’ve got a number of updates on the roadmap for 2010 – and yes, I hear you on push notifications. They’ll arrive just as soon as we’ve perfected the experience.
Many of you have also been asking when we’ll release a version which allows you to make calls over 3G – the holy grail of Skype on the mobile, if you like. We’ve had a 3G-capable version ready for some time now, but Apple’s current restrictions mean that they won’t allow us to make it available on the App Store for the moment.
Skype for Symbian
On the 3G calling front, we do have an alternative for the time being. We quietly slipped out a beta version of Skype for Symbian earlier this month, and early indications suggest that people are very happy with it. You can make free Skype-to-Skype calls, and calls to landlines and mobiles, on either WiFi or 3G data connections.
Once we’ve completed our testing on a wider range of phones, including touchscreen handsets, we’ll release the gold version. Symbian is the world’s most popular mobile platform, and we’re all very proud to be able to offer a full Skype experience on Symbian phones for the first time in its history.
Skype on 3
Our partnership with 3 continues to go from strength to strength. The 3 Skypephone and INQ handsets allow you to make free Skype-to-Skype calls, and calls to landlines and mobiles outside of your own country at our low rates. The partnership demonstrates that Skype can work in harmony with mobile operators, and isn’t the scary threat that some of them seem to think it is.
Skype for Nokia N900
Last month, we launched Skype on the Nokia N900. It’s the first example of our deep integration work with Nokia – Skype is fully built in to the phone’s operating system with no additional downloads required. Mark Douglas from the mobile team recorded a quick video demo which explains all.
Keeping in touch, everywhere
At Skype we recognise that not everyone has access to a Skype-enabled smartphone all of the time. Even if you do, it might not be convenient to use one, and we’ve developed two products which aim to make Skype accessible while you’re away from your desktop computer.
Many of you will have received emails in the last few days with details of your Skype To Go number. And of course, many of you will be in on the secret already. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. Skype To Go numbers are a great way to take advantage of Skype’s low rates, no matter which phone you’re calling from. If you’re in a supported country, you can make a local call, and get in touch with friends and family even if they’re countries or continents away – without breaking the bank. Think of it as a super-simple, pared down version of Skype.
At the other end of the scale, if you’re on the move and have a laptop with you, you should check out Skype Access. It lets you pay by the minute for WiFi using your Skype Credit at hundreds of thousands of hotspots worldwide. It’s included in Skype 4.2 Beta for Windows and Skype 2.8 for Mac – read Peter’s earlier blog post to find out more.
I’d like to reassure all of you who’ve been waiting patiently for our apps for the Nokia N97 and BlackBerry smartphones. They’re on their way, but unfortunately we’ve faced delays beyond our control in getting them to you. The BlackBerry app is in private beta testing at the moment, and we’re working hard to create the best possible Skype experience on both of these devices. When they’re ready, you’ll be among the first to know.
What’s coming up next?
In 2010, you can expect to see three things from us – first, more and better direct download apps. We’re focusing on getting the Skype experience right. What does that mean? Free Skype-to-Skype calls on both WiFi and mobile data connections, and a richer experience – great IM capabilities as well as calling, for example. And we’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeve.
Second, we’re continuing to work with mobile operators around the world. All I can say on this point is – watch this space.
And third, working hard to deliver those integrated Skype experiences with hardware manufacturers. Making Skype so much a part of the mobile phone that you don’t even have to think about using it – it’s just there.
Where to find us
We’re going to launch a mobile-specific blog in the first quarter of 2010, so you can expect to hear a lot more from us in the mobile team in the months to come. We’re already on Twitter, however, and you can find us at @skypemobile – follow us and stay up-to-date with all of our mobile news.
With that, I wish you a very happy holiday season. Stay tuned for 2010!