Skype, ShoreTel announce interoperability

* ShoreTel's 11,000 business customers will be able to receive inbound calls from more than 400 million registered Skype users worldwide

Skype and ShoreTel announced late last week that they have demonstrated interoperability between ShoreTel's UC system and Skype for SIP. ShoreTel’s enterprise customers can now register and use the beta version of Skype for SIP. The interoperability will allow ShoreTel's nearly 11,000 business customers to receive inbound calls from more than 400 million registered Skype users around the world at no cost to the Skype user.

Enterprises using ShoreTel UC systems can now direct outbound calls using Skype for SIP to landlines and mobile devices worldwide to take advantage of Skype's low rates. These same businesses can also purchase and associate online Skype numbers, which are available in more than 25 countries, with their ShoreTel UC system to receive inbound calls from landline and mobile phones.

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In a statement commenting on the milestone, John W. Combs, president and CEO at ShoreTel said, "We are delivering a significant competitive advantage to ShoreTel customers with the ability to leverage Skype's low-cost calling rates and to create an online presence with a click-to-call button that enables Skype users to call them for free. The simple-to-configure capabilities of Skype for SIP will further improve the flexibility and efficiency of our customers' operations, while lowering the total cost of ownership even further."

Our observations: Earlier this month, eBay announced it had signed an agreement to sell a majority share or its Skype communications unit in a deal valuing the business at $2.75 billion; the transaction is expected to close by Q4 2009. We believe that Skype's customer base will be unaffected in the near term by the spin-off, and the ShoreTel agreement is a case in point demonstrating that Skype continues make inroads with the enterprise market.

In the long term, Skype's success will depend on remaining a profitable company; it has been profitable for the last 10 consecutive quarters. For example, will it continue to offer free PC-to-PC voice calls to hundreds of millions of people and can its fee-based services for connections to call landlines and mobile phones sustain its free service?

The ShoreTel milestone is a step in the right direction for Skype, although increasing the Skype for SIP interoperability baseline with other UC suppliers will also be an important as Skype leverages its 400 million-strong subscriber base to attract complimentary subscription revenues needed for long-term profitability.

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