Skype just announced that Shoretel became the first vendor to achieve Skype-for-SIP interoperability. The move will allow Skype clients to function as end nodes on a Shoretel PBX. While significant, the deal misses out on some key capabilities much desired by Shoretel customers.
Skype-for-SIP was the SIP trunking capability announced last March. Unlike SIP-for-Asterisk, announced at ITEXPO, Skype-for-SIP provides for just three major capabilities all oriented around voice and call completion:
- SIP trunking enables the 400 million or so Skype users to call Shoretel users by going Skype-to-SIP-to-Shoretel.
- Click-to-call buttons, which are basically a variant of the SIP trunking capability, allow Skype users to click on button on a website and have the call complete to a Shoretel PBX for free.
- Online Skype numbers (SkypeIn) terminate incoming Skype calls originating at the PSTN on a Shoretel PBX. Skype online numbers are available in over 25 countries around the world.
The capabilities will allow Shoretel customers three big benefits that I see:
- International footprint - With SkypeIn numbers, companies will be able to represent themselves in foreign markets. Set up a French number so your company appears to be a French entity (because we know how much the French love Americans). Use a UK number so you don't appear to be an ignorant Yank. Target the booming Israeli market of three people with, well, maybe you should focus on China instead.
- Easy contact center integration - Adding a Skype button to your site is an easy way to provide sales and support to online users, converting casual browsers to buyers (one hopes). At the very least, you'll begin to get a better picture of the people visiting your Web site - for better or worse.
- Low-cost calling - This one is brain dead simple. Skype quality can be as good or better than the PSTN. Terminating calls on Skype and not the PSTN will cut down calling costs, particularly for international calls.
The big problem though is that Skype-for-SIP lacks the sophistication of Skype-for-Asterisk. Shoretel users cannot call out to Skype users by going Shoretel-to-SIP-to-Skype. What's more there is no presence integration, for example, so you can't see the online status of your peers. Finally, neither Skype-for-SIP nor Skype-for-Asterisk provide for sophisticated collaboration integration, such as being able to bring Skype users into a Web conference or video conference.
But I'm just being picky, I suppose. The Skype deal should be viewed optimistically, I believe. It will afford businesses running Shoretel cost-cutting and market expansion capabilities. Hard to argue with that lineup.
For Shoretel, this deal is a bit ironic. Shoretel didn't embrace SIP until relatively late into the protocol's development. It's funny to see them being the first Skype for SIP. Then again Shoretel's leadership has always been pragmatic. When everyone was advocating for the PC as a phone a few years back, Shoretel was the first to call for keeping voice calling on the phone, collaboration on the PC and integrating the two. They were right then and I think they'll be right this time, as well.