Perhaps signaling the next phase of extinction for the Baby Bells, Skype today released a new pricing strategy for using its software or Skype-certified hardware to make outbound calls to just about any phone number in the US and Canada. For consumers and businesses that sign up for the service by the end of January 2007, they'll be able to make unlimited outbound calls to any number for a flat fee of $14.95 for the entire year. Once the special promotional price ends at the end of January, the price jumps up to $29.95 per year. Even so, that's less than I'm paying to Verizon for the same service every month. Talk about yer' disruptions. Wow.
It's been a while since I spoke to the folks at Skype so I thought I'd catch up with the eBay subsidiary's general manager Don Albert (pictured above left) to find out how things are going and if things have improved in the way of turnkey Skype phone hardware (that doesn't require the involvement of a PC to make and receive calls).
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Here's a taste of the Q&A:
ZDNet: Skype's got a big announcement today, so I'll just let you dive in and tell us what it's all about.
Albert: Absolutely, today, Skype announced its first subscription based calling plan anywhere in the world. Basically what we're offering is for one flat annual fee of $29.95. Consumers and small businesses in the US and Canada can make unlimited calls for a year to landlines and cell phones throughout the US and Canada. And we're taking that one step further by offering a special promotional discount to people that sign up before the end of January, so for $14.95, we include a year of unlimited calling, $50.00 worth of coupons for Skype hardware, and 100 minutes of international calling to landlines and cell phones.
ZDNet: Sounds like a deal that's too hard to turn down. I spend more than that per month for unlimited calling with Verizon.
Albert: Absolutely,we think that many consumers will find this to be a compelling option to some of the high fees they're paying for long distance calling.
ZDNet: Now how are things going on the hardware front? I noticed over the last year I've seen tons of announcements coming over my email about different forms of hardware that support Skype. Are we at that point yet where i basically have pretty much the equivalent of a telephone, just sitting on my desk? It's not connected to my computer the way a lot of the early pieces of hardware had to be connected to someone's computer, are we there yet?
Albert: Just about. Actually David, 2006 for Skype was very much a year of hardware innovation with some leading companies including Netgear and Motorola and Sony and Linksys and many others. So this year has seen the launch of WiFi phones that let Skype users make calls from any open WiFi network without their computer. We also have a generation now of cordless phones that let users plug in both their land line and their broadband connection to allow them to both make and receive Skype calls and regular PSTN phone calls with the same cordless hand set that they can walk around with in their home or apartment or small business.