Skype expects the biggest application of the technology, at least initially, will be making outbound calls at lower rates. Businesses don't have to install any special hardware or software, but they will have to modify the configuration of their IP PBX systems, following technical specifications Skype is publishing as part of this program. They also have to establish a corporate account on Skype that will be used to connect calls to and from the Skype network. Product manager Antonio Varanda said the most common configuration will be a least-cost routing setup, where the PBX will automatically compare Skype's prices to those available from other carriers before connecting a call.
For inbound calling, companies could publish a Skype ID in addition to or instead of a toll free number, and Skype users would then be able to call in from anywhere in the world. Those inbound calls are free to companies participants in the beta, but commercial pricing will be announced when the beta is completed. Oberg would only say it will be a fraction of the per-minute cost for a traditional toll-free line.
Once the calls are routed into the corporate PBX, they can be managed by the same call queuing mechanisms as any other incoming call. One insurance company in France that has been working with Skype to test the possibilities now drives about 10 percent of its inbound calls over Skype, Oberg said. That should be attractive to companies that want to have a broad reach without the expense of setting up toll-free numbers in each local phone market, he said.
"I think they will get a pretty healthy response," said IDC analyst Rebecca Swensen, who believes Skype's offer will be attractive to some large enterprises, as well as small-to-medium sized businesses. "It isn't going to be a replacement type of solution, but it can be a supplementary solution to a [VOIP] solution already delivered to the enterprise."
Even though enterprises have been asking for SIP interoperability for years, she doesn't think Skype waited too long to take advantage of the opportunity. The Skype for Business solution will benefit from the years Skype invested in addressing consumer expectations, and it comes at a time when the lines between consumer and business technologies are blurring, Swensen noted. "Skype has developed a pretty solid interface, and this is a well-rounded solution. It's not just for cheap voice, but has many other capabilities."
Skype is a subsidiary of EBay, which purchased it in 2005 thinking to leverage it as a communication tool for users of the auction network. But those synergies never materialized, and recently CEO John Donahoe has acknowledged that Skype could be spun off as a separate business or sold.