Skype Pushes Into Consumer Electronics

Posted by: Olga Kharif on June 22, 2010

Skype’s low-cost calling service may soon find its way onto a consumer electronic device near you. On June 23, Skype unveiled a feature that makes it easier for developers to weave its communications tools into such devices as picture frames and TVs.

The company rolled out its SkypeKit, which is a set of tools needed to integrate Skype into various devices. Initially, access to SkypeKit will be available by invitation only.

Until now, hardware manufacturers have had to ask Skype whether they can integrate its service into its devices. Skype would provide its approved partners with the software code necessary to build the feature in. Partners Panasonic and Samsung have already integrated Skype into their Web-enabled TV

Now, Skype is opening up this special code to anybody. Any maker of consumer electronics can take this code and integrate it into its gadgets. That should make Skype available on many more devices.

But there are drawbacks to this move as well. With the release of SkypeKit, Skype is relinquishing some control over the Skype experience. It will be up to hardware makers to make sure Skype users have no problems using the software. Poor implementations could, potentially, affect Skype’s brand.

The upside could be substantial, however. The number of Web-connected devices that could, potentially, use Skype, is on the rise. Gearmaker Ericsson recently predicted there will be 50 billion Web-connected devices by 2020. “Our goal is to expand Skype across multiple platforms and empower third-party device makers and desktop software developers to embed Skype into consumer electronics devices and desktop applications,” Jonathan Christensen, general manager for platform at Skype says in an e-mail. “This can go as far as the imaginations of our developers.”

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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