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Skype pulls about-face, calls for interoperability

Humble pie by the international water cooler

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Two months after Skype announced a beta of its SIP gateway, the company's general manager has called on PBX manufacturers to get compatible, despite half a decade of refusing to play nicely with anyone.

Skype resolutely refused to consider adopting the industry-standard Session Initiation Protocol, claiming that it could do things better and that compatibility was something other people needed. But now the company is trying to push into enterprise networks and SIP is back on the agenda.

Speaking at Interop, as reported by ComputerWorld, Skype's general manager Stefan Oberg called on PBX vendors to work with Skype on integrating their offerings with Skype's network - enabling Skype to sell its services to companies wanting to save a few quid on phone calls without having to put Skype clients on every computer.

To smooth that process Skype is apparently building channel partners to sell the VoIP service into enterprises, based on easy integration with IT systems (on-screen call control) and cheaper voice and video calling. Citing his own company as an example, Oberg pointed out Skype has a permanent video call between the water coolers in separate offices: "We are changing the water-cooler conversation. We are making it international."

We're not convinced that translates well to a TV beside the kettle, but it does demonstrate how ridiculously-cheap telecommunications can create entirely new usage models, such as African women watching CCTV cameras in US malls: you don't need a common language to spot a thief, but that model has always proved too expensive, at least so far.

SIP integration was an obvious development for Skype, one that should have been available half a decade ago, but now the company desperately needs to get PBX vendors on board if it's going to find a home in the office. ®

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