Skype Tests New Features

By Eric Auchard
Web telephone-calling company Skype on Wednesday unveiled new software
with automatic click-to-call features designed to make shopping easier
and that also encourages users to join group conversations.
Skype Chief Executive Niklas Zennstrom said in an interview that
features in the new Skype 3.0 -- available in a public test version
starting on Wednesday -- can help the company move beyond its
dependence on communications revenue.
The company has said it expects $195 million in revenue, up 225
percent from $60 million it took in 2005.
"You are also going to see new services which are more targeted to
e-commerce," Zennstrom said.
Skype-calling software allows users to place free phone calls to other
Skype users on computers. It also offers cut-rate prices for calls to
conventional landline or mobile phone users from either computers or a
new generation of Skype-ready phones now available worldwide.
Click-to-call allows calls to be to be placed the moment a Skype user
clicks on a phone number listed on any Web page.
The promise of such features for use in Web-based customer service or
closing sales was a big selling point that online auctioneer eBay Inc.
had highlighted when it acquired Skype a year ago in a deal worth more
than $4 billion.
Skype 3.0 automates this process by allowing users with only one click
to make ordinary phone calls from Web pages.
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"Our long-term goal is to have much more balance between e-commerce
and telecommunications revenues," he told Reuters.
Speaking to an audience of Internet industry insiders at the annual
Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco, Zennstrom reiterated that Skype
must move to replace communication revenue as phone calls eventually
become free.
Two significant partnerships should help drive Skype business in 2007:
Skype's parent eBay has struck partnerships with Yahoo Inc. in the
United States and with Google Inc. outside U.S. territory.
"There are other e-commerce services that I cannot talk about today
that we are working on as well," he said.
Skype 3.0 software is designed to run on Microsoft Corp. Windows-based
computers.
Another feature allows users to set up text-based chats with up to 100
Web users, whether Skype users or not. This text chat feature
complements an earlier group audio feature called Skypecast, which
allows live, moderated audio conversations with up to 100
participants.
"When Skype started out, people communicated with people who knew each
other already, one-to-one," Zennstrom said. "Now you can host a public
conversation on any topic."
The public chat feature, which can be initiated and moderated by any
Skype user to control who else takes part, also can be embedded into
blogs or Web pages to encourage such conversations to take place
across the Web, Zennstrom said.
Skype had 136 million users registered users at the end of the
September, up 23 million in the three months from June.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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