Skype, the Internet phone service from KaZaA founder Niklas Zennstrom, now has over a million users, just eight weeks after its launch. The software, which enables PC-to-PC voice-over-IP (VOIP) calls, has seen as many as 120,000 people connected at the same time.
How are traditional phone companies reacting? Boardwatch has collected some anecdotes from a range of carriers. Here’s what they think:
Skype is of course working hard to improve the quality of its service and to interconnect with the PSTN in future releases, but right now it has more immediate technical hurdles to overcome.
Zennstrom admits the company wasn’t ready for the huge number of people that signed on. “The scaling was an issue initially,” he says, but he insists it is under control now. Another glitch involved people who registered fashionable names, such as J.Lo and Darth Vader, and then tried to sell them.
Skype spam might also be a problem down the line. “We will have to work on some kind of spam filter then. The simple thing to do is to only allow calls from people in your friends lists,” Zennstrom says.
Release 1.0 of the software is expected sometime this winter and will offer improved sound quality with a few new features, as well as some bug fixes. In addition, the company will launch a premium version, which will offer extra features (call holding, call waiting, multiple lines), conference calling, and voice mail. Pricing has not yet been released.
Analysts say that once Skype starts to make money, traditional operators will be forced to take notice of the service. That is, if Zennstrom’s vision of it hasn’t already shaken them to the core.
He predicts that over the next five years POTS (plain old telephone service) will be reduced to something you use in those rare cases when you call someone who refuses to migrate or to some third-world countries. “I see a clear parallel to the shift from fax to email,” he says... Skype is the email, POTS is the fax.”
And the last time you sent a fax was...?
— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Boardwatch
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