Discount retail giant Wal-Mart Stores announced on Monday that it will add a special section that sells Skype products, including handsets, Webcams, headsets and other equipment, in more than 1,800 of its stores.
Skype calls are most often made using a headset with a microphone that plugs into a computer. But the company also offers traditional-looking handsets and cordless phones.
Companies such as Motorola, Plantronics, Logitech International, Royal Philips Electronics and others manufacture this equipment, which is already sold through consumer electronics outlets like Best Buy. But Wal-Mart is the first major retailer to dedicate a section to Skype equipment.
Millions of consumers have downloaded Skype's software to make free calls over the Internet. And the company has steadily been building paid services that let people make calls to regular phone lines or cell phones. The company also offers a service that allows people to accept calls from regular phones and cell phones.
Wal-Mart will also be the first retailer to sell prepaid calling cards for the Skype voice over Internet Protocol service. The card, which costs $8.85, will offer customers unlimited calling in the United States and Canada for three months. In addition, Wal-Mart will offer $20 Skype credit that will be good for calls made to anywhere in the world.
Skype's PC-to-PC calling over the Internet is free, but the company charges customers who want to make and receive calls to and from traditional phones. Skype's rates, especially on overseas calls, are much lower than those of traditional phone plans. For example, some calls can be made for as little as 2.1 cents per minute.
The deal with Wal-Mart is a huge win for Skype. The company hopes it will help drive usage among the mainstream public.
"This relationship with Wal-Mart will increase exposure for Skype and our hardware partners in a single dedicated Internet communications section," Don Albert, vice president and general manager of Skype North America, said in a statement. "Our research suggests that when users add a Skype-certified accessory like a headset, handset or Webcam, it greatly enhances their experience, and they use Skype more to connect with family, friends and business colleagues."