RealTime IT News

Skype on Dell

Skype, eBay's Internet phone service, has inked a deal with Dell, making the free VoIP software an option on new high-end multimedia laptops.

Skype comes preinstalled on Dell's XPS 2010 entertainment PC or can be selected as part of the audio-visual software package for the XPS M1210 notebook computer. The multimedia package also includes a webcam, earbuds and integrated broadband.

"The reach of Dell computers in the market is huge, and we think being on Dell systems is a great way to expose people to Skype," Henry Gomez, general manager of Skype North America, told internetnews.com.

Dell's decision to bundle Skype with its latest laptop follows an agreement with the PC maker and Google.

Pointing to more than 100 million downloads of the Skype software, the PC maker "likes to team up with the best-of-breed," according to a Dell spokesperson.

Offering Skype alongside its newest computers was a sign of "a great convergence of technology," according to the spokesperson.

Financial terms of the deal were not announced.

Although the arrangement isn't likely to change the minds of users of competing VoIP applications, having Skype preloaded could encourage experimentation by consumers curious about the concept, Joe Laszlo, an analyst with Jupiter Research, said.

In May, Skype announced that its SkypeOut service would be free for a year. The premium service usually costs 2 cents per minute.

Although Skype has moved to reach beyond PC-to-PC calling, the goal now is simply growing the user base, according to the IDC analyst.

However, while consumers may embrace Skype, Gartner is calling on enterprises to "draw a line in the sand" and block all traffic from the VoIP service.

In May, Skype warned of a "medium risk" for Skype Windows users. Although Skype says upgrading to the latest version of its software fixes the vulnerability, the Internet phone service still allows users of older software to connect.

In light of the risks, "the most secure option is to block Skype traffic," wrote Gartner analyst Lawrence Orans.

Orans said the deal with Dell could increase the security problem since many people have Skype on their laptops.

Key to the problem Skype encounters in enterprises is its use of proprietary protocols requiring corporate firewalls to be configured resulting in less secure connections, said Orans.

The solution is for enterprise users to adopt Vonage or another VoIP service using the well-known SIP standard.

Although Orans sees Skype as a security risk, most companies know their employees use the VoIP client and look the other way.

Skype did not return a request for comment concerning security.