Skype Woos Enterprise With Skype Connect

Even as rumors swirl that Cisco might buy the popular consumer VoIP calling service, Skype launches a new service designed for the enterprise.

By David Needle | Posted Aug 30, 2010
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Looking to bridge the flexibility and cost-savings of Voice over IP (VoIP) Internet calling with traditional PBX services, Skype launched Skype Connect 1.0, the latest addition to the company's Skype for Business product line.

The news comes at a time when Cisco is rumored to have made an offer to buy Skype, according to a report in TechCrunch. After former owner eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), sold off a majority stake in the company last year, Skype announced plans to file for an IPO earlier this month that it said it hopes will raise more than $100 million. Skype could not be reached for comment by press time.

Skype has become synonymous with free Internet calling for consumers since its launch, but any deal with Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) would go a long way toward establishing its enterprise credentials and could prove a useful asset in the networking giant's unified communications portfolio.

In any case, the company is forging ahead with its own efforts to beep its enterprise cred with Skype Connect, which has been in beta testing since March 2009 and to date has attracted 2,400 customers worldwide, it said.

Skype Connect works with IP-enabled private branch exchange (PBX) or Unified Communications (UC) systems and is designed to reduce the fees enterprises pay for outbound calls from desktop phones to landlines and mobile devices worldwide -- they can be billed at Skype's typically lower standard per-minute rates.

Skype Connect also enables inbound calls from Skype connected users worldwide once Skype's "Click & Call" buttons have been installed on their Web sites.

The other key feature of Skype Connect is the integration with corporate PBX systems that enables companies to receive calls from landlines or mobile phones using Skype's online numbers that have been purchased separately. The system also lets companies manage Skype calls using existing PBX or UC systems' features, including call routing, automatic call distribution, conferencing, auto-attendant, voicemail, call recording and logging.

"Since its inception, Skype has been used by many businesses wanting to reduce communications costs," David Gurlé, vice president and general manager of the company's Skype for Business unit, said in a statement. "In fact, based on internal research, in the first quarter of 2010, approximately 37 percent of Skype users reported that they use Skype for some business or business-related purposes."

"Our team's goal is to empower businesses of all sizes and types with rich communications tools to unleash their productivity, while reducing their telecommunications costs," he said.

Skype said customers can use its free Skype Manager to set up and manage Skype Connect. Skype Manager is a Web-based tool, released in May, that also lets companies centrally manage Skype usage. A video demo of how Skype Connect works is available at the company's business blog site.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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