Skype has been trying to branch out beyond its traditional consumer base and serve more small and medium businesses. As part of that strategy, the company rolled out Skype Connect, which enables companies to tie their Private Branch Exchange (PBX) or Unified Communications (UC) systems into Skype.Skype's new service enables companies to make outbound calls from desktop phones or mobile devices connected to a PBX and then be billed at Skype's standard rates. In addition, businesses can assign numbers to enterprise phones, so employees can receive inbound calls from Skype users.
In addition, corporations can manage Skype calls via their existing PBX features, such as call routing, automatic call distribution, conferencing, auto-attendant, voicemail, call recording and logging. Skype Connect has been certified to work with products from Avaya, Cisco, SIPfoundry, and ShoreTel. Also, third-party IP gateways from AudioCodes, Grandstream and VoSKY connect older Time Division Multiplexers PBXs or Key Systems to Skype.
Earlier this month, the company started the process of getting itself ready for a public offering. While Skype has attracted many customers (claiming 23 million users are online during peak periods), the vendor has struggled to develop a sound business model. The company's focus has been on delivering low cost, international consumer voice calls; however, that market is not very lucrative. Consequently, the vendor has been moving more squarely into the business market as well as focusing on new services, such as video calls. Whether or not, the change will bring about financial success is still unclear.
Skype Connect, which costs $6.95 per line per month, may appeal to small and medium businesses for a couple of reasons. Skype has made it simple for customers to connect to its services and many SMBs do not have the staff needed to deploy and maintain sophisticated voice services. In addition, the company has offered competitive calling rates. Because of those benefits, the service garnered 2,400 users during its beta phase. It seems likely that other businesses will at least kick the tires on the new service to see if it may help them cut their telecommunications costs.