Peer-to-peer telephony upstart Skype Technologies has staked its claim on the title of most popular mobile application provider ever with the launch of a version of its massively popular software designed for handheld devices.
The free to use PocketSkype is designed for users of wireless LAN (WLAN)-enabled PDAs based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC. As with the PC version of the software, it allows users to make free, high-quality voice calls to fellow Skype users over a broadband P2P network.
Unlike its PC sibling, the users of which are largely desk-bound, PocketSkype is designed to merge the convenience and mobility of PDAs with the rapid growth of WLANs, especially in the home, in businesses and in public hotspots. As such, the service can be considered to offer a low- or no-cost alternative to traditional mobile telephony in those situations where the two types of network access overlap.
The move opens the door to mass adoption of the Skype service by millions of mobile device users as built-in WLAN becomes a feature of new PDAs, although these are unusual at present.
Skype CEO and co-founder Niklas Zennstrom said Skype plans to extend the reach of PocketSkype beyond Pocket PC to devices based on Windows Mobile for Smartphones as dual-mode handsets with both WLAN and wide area wireless connectivity (such as GPRS and CDMA2000) come to market.
Symbian OS and Palm OS support could also follow depending on the ubiquity of WLAN connectivity in the devices. Pocket PC devices are currently the most likely to offer this functionality.
Skype, even in its PC incarnation, is already one of the most popular pieces of software ever created, with over 9.5 million instances downloaded since the Luxembourg-based company launched in August 2003.
As such, PocketSkype clearly has the potential to break all records for software downloads for mobile devices. Most mobile applications, other than those bundled with devices, are fortunate to attract more than a few thousand users.
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