RealTime IT News

Piggybacking on Skype

A Cambridge, Mass., startup has introduced software to broaden the already considerable reach of Internet phone phenomenon Skype.

iSkoot's software, which is designed to appeal to frequent international callers, allows users to connect their regular cell phones to Skype's service and buddy lists.

The application automatically forwards VoIP calls from the PC to a mobile phone. It also can switch a VoIP call from the PC to a mobile phone without disconnecting, the company said. For outgoing calls, it acts as a bridge between the mobile phone, the PC, and the call recipient's VoIP phone.

"We see Skype as a really important ecosystem leader and a powerful trendsetter," Jacob Guedalia, iSkoot CEO, told internetnews.com.

iSkoot's offering is possible because Skype opened its application program interface a couple of months ago, encouraging independent developers to build add-ons for the Skype platform.

"iSkoot is using the Skype API , and at this point we don't have any additional details except to applaud their creative approach and initial success," Kelly Larabee, a Skype spokeswoman, said.

Skype, which is based in Europe, has more than 40 million subscribers and is looking for ways to enhance its service. For example, it's testing a video calling service.

While initially looking to appeal to Skype users, versions of iSkoot are planned for other platforms and buddy systems, including AIM, Yahoo and Microsoft services, as well as for Mac systems.

iSkoot is offering a 30-day free trial from its Web site. After that, users pay $9.95 annually for unlimited use.

Guedalia, who has founded and sold three telecom-related startups, said downloads have been surprisingly strong since they became available Monday, but he wouldn't specify the number.

There are other startups looking to solve the same problem as iSkoot, Guedalia said, although they require users to buy new hardware or handsets.

The privately held, venture-backed company was officially founded in May and has less than a dozen employees, most of them engineers. Guedalia, whose brother David is iSkoot's CTO and vice president of research, said the company is gearing up for expansion.