In An Effort To Become Ubiquitous, Skype Partners with Nokia

Skype, the darling of PC-based Internet telephony, announced news today that will extend the company’s reach beyond the personal computer. At Mobile Wold Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Skype announced a partnership with mobile handset maker Nokia whereby Skype software will be pre-loaded onto some NSeries phones starting in the third quarter of 2009.

Skype on the N97

Skype on the N97

The upcoming Nokia N97 will be the first Nokia handset to receive the Skype software. With Skype pre-loaded, Nokia NSeries users will be able to IM and call their Skype contacts using Skype’s VoIP infrastructure, rather than via traditional GSM networks.

The Primitive Skype Mobile Experience Thus Far

For some time, mobile users have had ways of conducting limited Skype functions. For example, an older version of Skype has long been available for the Windows Mobile operating system. More recently, Skype has released ‘Skype Lite’ versions, which are essentially Java-based versions of their VoIP/IM software for a variety of mobile platforms including Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, and LG.

Additionally, products such as iSkoot and hardware platforms such as the 3 Skypephone make it possible to have Skype IM/calling using mobile handset software. With the 3 Skypephone, users can make Skype-to-Skype without using their GSM minutes thanks to the iSkoot implementation UK mobile carrier 3 has arranged. The 3 Skypephone also allows one to see their Skype contacts’ presence information within the phone built-in address book.

A New World?

The new Skype version that will be on Nokia handsets is a native version that will be tightly integrated with the Symbian operating system. In fact, Skype will be available via the phone’s firmware. For those who purchase an N97 before Skype is released, an updated firmware will be made available.

With Skype will be integrated into the N97’s address book, it will be possible for users to see when Skype contacts are online alongside their existing phone contacts. If a Skype contact is online, users can either send their Skype friend an instant message or make free and low-cost phone calls via a 3G cellular connection or Wi-Fi. Skype-to-Skype calls will still remain free and SkypeOut calls will adhere to the low calling rates we are accustomed too.

Globetrotters Targeted

The Nokia and Skype partnership will be a major benefit to any mobile user who either frequently travels or otherwise needs free/inexpensive calling. Skype has long been a great option to communicate while traveling internationally. With today’s announcement, Skype will be as close as your mobile handset. For anyone who travels frequently knows, it is alarmingly expensive to make phone calls while abroad. Having Skype on a mobile handset will make it very cost-effective to communicate with your colleagues, friends, and family.

Skype was wise to partner with Nokia. The Finnish handset maker is the world’s largest and most dominant mobile handset maker with roughly 40% of the phone market. Now, with a Nokia/Skype partnership, both parties stand to benefit. For Skype, they will see a rise in SkypeOut calling and yearly calling subscriptions, and Nokia will see globetrotting professionals look to NSeries handsets for their communications needs.

Carrier Reaction

It will be interesting to see how mobile network operators will rereact to this new Skype offering. SkypeOut minutes, if heavily used, could seriously dent international calling revenue. In today’s mobile network market, where carriers are looking for any method to monetize the mobile communication experience, Skype on a mobile could cannibalize international calling and texting profits.

What are your thoughts? Could you see using Skype on your mobile handset, especially if the Skype experience is tightly integrated into your mobile phone book? Please leave a comment and lets discuss!