Wednesday, May 25, 2005

SkypeWatch: How Big will the Skype Empire Become?

Ted Wallingford

In today’s comments at the VON ‘05 conference in Stockholm, Niklas Zennstrom gave some interesting clues as to his ambitions for Skype. I’ve long suspected Skype of wanting to essentially take over and replace the public telephone network, but now it’s coming from the horse’s mouth (from the Inquirer):
Zennstrom revealed that he was particularly keen on an embedded Linux version of his product. The goal appears to bring out devices which contain a dedicated Sykpe client. He almost certainly appears to be thinking of Wi-Fi handsets.
Embedded Skype means third-party devices can gain interoperability with (and possibly dependence upon) the Skype peer-to-peer network. Like the Skype API, only not restricted to Windows PCs. Imagine that. Licensed embedded endpoints accessing a proprietary network. Kind of sounds like the Microsoft of the early 1990s, doesn’t it?

But that’s not even the most revealing tidbit. Niklas also said that an open standard should be developed to solve the E911 call-routing problem, since, at least at this point, it doesn’t look like Skype is going to be able to avoid regulation (they’re a PSTN-connected carrier, after all). Skype, of course, does not use an open standard such as SIP or Dundi for its own call-signaling, so it’s somewhat ironic that Mr. Zennstrom is calling upon the community to solve his E911 dilemma with open standards.

For the record, I agree with Zennstrom on that point—an open standard for emergency dispatch calling should be created. But not merely for Skype’s sake. Of course, if Skype were to embrace an open 911 standard, but not play nice with all the other truly open interop standards out there, it would be a shame. Since Skype clearly has its focus set on rebuilding the international telecom system as we know it, I sure hope Skype doesn’t become the “Windows of telephony”.


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