Skype Expands Mobile Offerings

Today, Voice over IP (VoIP) pioneer Skype announced a dramatic expansion of its mobile efforts with software that lets Apple iPhone and iPod Touch users make Internet phone calls from the popular devices. The move follows similar releases earlier this year for Nokia, Windows Mobile, and Google Android phones. And in May, the company will complete its entry into the mobile space with a version for Research in Motion (RIM) BlackBerry devices.

"The number-one request we get from customers is to make Skype available on the iPhone," says Skype CEO Scott Durchslag. "There's a pent-up demand."

The iPhone version of Skype has some interesting limitations and unique features. Thanks to Apple's relationship with its wireless carriers, the software is prevented from making calls over cellular networks and instead can work only when the device is connected to a Wi-Fi network. (Skype hopes that this limitation will be removed over time, however.) And Skype for iPhone can't make video calls, as can some of the other mobile versions. That appears to be a limitation with the current iPhone hardware.

Skype for iPhone does offer unique integration with the iPhone address book, letting users make Skype-based calls to existing contacts. Other versions of the software utilize only Skype's built-in contacts list.

Skype calls are free when made to non-phone devices (such as Skype-based PCs). Skype-to-phone calls are typically much cheaper than traditional calls, however, especially for international use. Skype boasts more than 400 million users worldwide.

Skype for iPhone and iPod Touch will ship Tuesday. The application is free, but iPod Touch users will need to purchase a headset with a microphone

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