This morning, at the CEA Line Show in New York, Skype is taking the first step in the evolution of its revamped developer platform with the beta release of SkypeKit, “empowering consumer electronic and desktop software innovators to embed Skype into their products”.
- Most importantly, SkypeKit allows developers to embed all the functionality of Skype into their offering without the need for the end user to have the Skype client open. They call it a “Headless” Skype toolkit whereas the developer community had been using the term “Naked” Skype.
- Initially SkypeKit is available as an invitation-only beta.
- Today API’s are available for Linux; API’s for Windows and Mac OS/X will be available in three to four weeks.
- The current program is targeted to consumer electronics and other telephony device manufacturers as well as desktop software developers
- SkypeKit includes support for Skype’s royalty-free ultrawideband audio SILK codec.
- SkypeKit supports Skype functionality beyond simply voice, including Skype video and H.264 processors embedded within hardware (such as with the FREETALK Everyman webcam).
- Skype’s developers have put significant effort into both security and scalability to sustain two of Skype’s key features.
- Skype will be promoting SkypeKit developers offerings through a “plugged into Skype” logo as well as making them available via the Skype Store.
- SkypeKit provides a long requested complement to the legacy Skype Public API’s used in applications such as Pamela, VodBurner, OnState, InnerPass and others.
This morning I had the opportunity to discuss the SkypeKit beta launch with Jonathan Christensen, Skype’s General Manager and Head of Platform. It provided an opportunity to dig deeper into Skype’s goals and strategy for the SkypeKit platform.
Primary goals of SkypeKit are:
- To provide developers with a “naked” Skype such that a Skype client is not necessary for the deployment of Skype on a hardware platform or Skype-enhanced application
- To provide an SDK that supports ALL the functionality of the current Skype clients, including video and SILK.
- To promote the incorporation of SILK into end point devices, making possible high quality audio calling such as experienced with the recent release of Skype for iPhone 2.0.
- Make the adoption of Skype into a device or application as friendly and readily adaptable as possible while providing appropriate levels of security and scalability
- To provide developers with a robust, scalable and proven channel for readily marketing their devices and applications worldwide.
In our discussion Christensen pointed out that Skype had not only reviewed developer requests for a revitalized and enhanced SDK but also incorporated the need to support all Skype functionality as well as maintaining the level of security and scalability required to meet the demand levels of Skype’s user base.
Christensen emphasized that Skype will be aggressively pursuing hardware vendors to license and adopt SILK as a standard feature of their offerings and to effect interoperability for Skype. IP-phones such as those offered by Linksys, Aastra, Polycom, snom and Grandstream would certainly be good candidates; their adoption of SILK would contribute significantly to Skype’s efforts to make SILK a standard. But it also means we could see the incorporation of SILK into, for example, the Skype for TV offerings available for certain models of Panasonic, LG and Samsung TV sets.
On another topic, Christensen emphasized Skype’s intention to facilitate marketing of the resulting offerings through both Skype’s “plugged into Skype” designation and the option to have them carried on the Skype Store. While any vendor can develop and market an offering on their own, it only receives the “plugged into Skype” designation required to be offered on the Skype Store by meeting two conditions:
- it was developed using SkypeKit
- it meets Skype Certification standards when it comes to establishing a baseline for audio and video quality
Finally he pointed out that Skype launched this new SDK platform effort with this approach because “having an SDK for devices and desktop applications are a natural place for us to start extending Skype capabilities today”. As for supporting web developers, Skype only said, “We know there is demand among web developers, but we have nothing to announce at this time.”
To give a sense of developers intending to use SkypeKit, FREETALK (with their Webcam for Samsung TV), Panasonic, Litl with their Webbook and Grandstream are participating in the Skype booth at the CEA Line Show this week.
Bottom line: There’s quite a collection of legacy Skype hardware collected around my office over the past four years; most of it is no longer available due to lack of ongoing support by previous Skype management, technology changes and vendor disappearance (who recalls US Robotics, for instance?). Frankly, if we look at Skype Certified hardware available on the Skype Store today, we only see offerings from FREETALK, Logitech, FaceVsion, RTX and some speakerphone vendors, such as Yamaha and ClearOne.
SkypeKit represents Skype’s first step in rebooting and revitalizing its hardware device support; it certainly fits in with Skype’s “Skype Everywhere” strategy. Last week at CommunicAsia, Skype CEO Josh Silverman was talking about his vision of “fixed-mobile convergence” for Skype where a user can transparently move from device to device and seamlessly continue a conversation without the need to even log on from one device to the next. But the final proof is in the execution:
- Has Skype made the business and ongoing support case for developers to employ SkypeKit and deploy offerings?
- Will SILK become an industry standard for audio quality? and will IP-phone vendors realize the value of SILK?
As for other Questions and Answers, check out that section at the end of Jonathan’s post today.
Full disclosure: In Store Solutions, producer of the FREETALK line of Skype hardware, has become a client of Denali InterConneXions, publisher of Voice On The Web, building on the author’s previous business development experience with establishing partnerships that can assist with the promotion of a primary vendor’s offerings. A more complete statement will follow shortly.
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