Skype for BlackBerry Takes Aim at Enterprises

Skype, once viewed as an unwelcome intruder by corporate security, is now being ushered into the boardroom and cubicle via the ultimate enterprise icon: the BlackBerry. The Luxembourg-based company this week unveiled Skype Lite for BlackBerry, bringing the benefits of inexpensive Skype calling to mobile employees.

The move, announced at CTIA this week—along with a similar effort for Apple iPhone owners—marks a departure for the mainly consumer-oriented eBay-owned communications company. Although employees often used the desktop version of Skype to make calls, companies had worried the estimated 405 million users could pose a security risk. Those concerns were shoved into the background as businesses sought ways to cut costs, including phone calls.

Skype Lite, available now by download, will support the BlackBerry Bold and Curve as of May 1, the company announced Tuesday.

The action made “Skype available in the briefcases and purses of BlackBerry users around the world,” added Scott Durchslag, company COO.

“When Skype becomes available on BlackBerry smartphones later this year, we’ll have delivered on this promise by making Skype available on nearly 90 percent of all smartphones available today,” Durchlag said.

Unlike the iPhone announcement, Skype pointed out BlackBerry users won’t require a Wi-Fi connection. Rather, Skype Lite for BlackBerry uses existing data and calling plans.

In terms of features, BlackBerry users will be able to make and receive free calls to other Skype users. Calls to landlines and cell phones outside the network can be made using SkypeOut, a service that costs around two cents per minute. Other services, such as instant messaging and knowing when other Skype users are online, will also be available to BlackBerry users.

“I remain a little skeptical about the value of Skype on a cell phone (for enterprises). I think it’s really still a consumer centric application for the BlackBerry user that wants to use Skype in the home and not be tied to the PC,” Gartner analyst Steve Blood told Enterprise VoIPplanet.

You may not soon be making a Skype for BlackBerry call over a modern 3G wireless network. A 20-minute phone call would rack up 10Mb in data charges, Blood said.

For enterprises, the key Skype announced recently was the unveiling of Skype for SIP, a program enabling companies to manage the service through existing PBX equipment.

In a sign of future BlackBerry-Skype deals, the eBay-owned company announced “further pricing details” would be announced later this year.

The BlackBerry move is seen as a three-pronged effort by Skype to shift from solely a desktop PC application to one available on millions of mobile phones. After two years of testing with British mobile network Hutchison 3, Skype is inking deals with all major cell phone makers.

Along with the BlackBerry, Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch, Skype is available for Nokia handsets, as well as phones using Windows Mobile and Google’s Android operating software.

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