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VoIP giant Skype has announced a number of partnerships with telephony gadget manufacturers in a bid to reach a wider market with its internet telephony service.

In just one of the partnerships announced, the voice over internet protocol (VoIP) provider has linked up with Panasonic to release a cordless telephone which allows users to make internet voice calls and traditional PSTN calls using the same handset.

Skype has also partnered with D-Link to produce a phone adapter, which allows users to make internet calls using their existing handset. In addition, it has also linked up with Creative to launch the Internet PhonePLUS, a standalone phone that allows people to make calls over the internet without a PC connection.

These new products should help to boost the appeal of Skype's VoIP service, which was purchased by eBay for more than $2.6bn in September of 2005, with a possibility of a further payment of $1.5bn if it reaches certain financial targets by 2008.

"In the short-term Skype will pick up a niche market, but it's hard to see how it would become very big," said John Gilsenan, consultant with IDC Ireland, speaking to ElectricNews.Net. "Over time companies like Skype will be seen to have been flag bearers for something that was coming up behind in a truck."

Gilsenan said that much of the growth in VoIP was coming from corporations upgrading their PSTN networks to VoIP and that eventually business and residential customers would be using VoIP without realising it. "People will end up buying something from Eircom that was pioneered by Skype," he said.

Skype has also moved to broaden its appeal in the "social networking" market through its alliance with Kodak on the EasyShare Gallery. Social networking is the description given to a whole range of web services, including blogging, photo-sharing, instant messaging and VoIP.

The EasyShare Gallery allows people to create a narrated photo album. After creating an album by selecting photos in the gallery, users can call friends using the Skype service so that they can watch the slideshow simultaneously.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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