Sainsbury's hypes Skype

The tie-up could be a turning point in bringing VoIP to a mass market, but some doubt whether the general public is willing to boot up a PC to make phone calls

VoIP provider Skype has begun selling credit vouchers at Sainsbury's supermarkets across the UK.

Skype-certified handsets and headsets will also soon be appearing on the store's shelves as part of the tie-up between the two firms.

"We think our customers will welcome the convenience of being able to purchase inexpensive worldwide Internet calls when they shop," said Sainsbury's commercial manager Adam Zeiderman in a statement. "Combined with our experience selling mobile phone top-up cards, we anticipate that the system will integrate seamlessly into all our stores."

Analysts gave a mixed reaction to the news, with some doubting that the general public are ready for the VoIP revolution.

Barry Butler of telecoms analysts Juniper Research told ZDNet UK: "It's good for people with a serious cost challenge like international calls, or for business, but for the average person in the street, they're not going to want to have to boot up a computer to run it."

"The bleeding edge part of the population will embrace this, but there are so many other low-cost telephony [products] on offer at the moment," Butler added.

James Enck of Daiwa Securities agreed that a major market for the vouchers could be found in those who currently use international calling cards.

"It's really going to be someone who's making a lot of international calls, particularly to third world countries where the termination pricing is extortionate," he told ZDNet UK on Friday.

"It's probably a fairly significant development in terms of growing consumer awareness of VoIP," Enck added.