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Skype Expands into Business Market

Skype is now initiating plans to enter the commercial market for business customers. The VoIP service innovator announced the beta version of Skype For SIP for Business users. According to the Skype press release, the new service will allow SIP-based PBX station users to place calls to fixed desktop telephone instruments and mobile devices around the world, and to receive calls from Skype users directly into their PBX system. Calls will be received through their existing communications system at no cost to the customer. Customers can purchase online Skype numbers available in over 20 countries to receive calls from business contacts and customers who are using traditional fixed lines or mobile phones.From the press release, the beta version of Skype For SIP will enable station users to:

* Receive and manage inbound calls from Skype users worldwide on SIP-enabled PBX systems; connecting the company Web site to the PBX system via click-to-call

* Place calls with Skype to landlines and mobile phones worldwide from any connected SIP-enabled PBX; reducing costs with Skype's low-cost global rates

* Purchase Skype's online numbers, to receive calls to the corporate PBX from landlines or mobile phones

* Manage Skype calls using their existing hardware and system applications such as call routing, conferencing, phone menus and voicemail; no additional downloads or training are required.

SIP users, phone system administrators, developers and service partners are invited to apply for the beta test at Applicants will need to be businesses, have an installed SIP based IP-PBX system, as well as a level of technical competency to configure their own SIP-enabled PBX. The initial beta is available to a limited number of participants. During the beta period all calls will be charged at standard Skype rates. Further pricing details will be announced when the product is fully launched later this year.

The announcement also included the following warning: Skype is not a replacement for your traditional telephone service and cannot be used for emergency calling. Skype for SIP is meant to complement your existing telephone services.

Although there are more than 400 million registered Skype users across the globe, the service has made little or no profit, because most users pay no fee. [UPDATE: See "Correction on Skype" for the company's response regarding profit.] It is estimated that about one third of active users are small businesses. Skype hopes that the new service will generate a much-needed new revenues base to help generate some profits to justify eBay's somewhat exorbitant $2.6 billion purchase price for the company.