Skype for iPhone available everywhere but Canada

Skype Technologies S.A. will make its highly anticipated debut on the Apple Inc. iPhone Tuesday, but Canadian users will be one of the only countries in the world left shut out.

"There is a patent-license issue in Canada which prevents us from making Skype available on the iPhone," Chaim Haas, a spokesperson on behalf of Skype, told ComputerWorld Canada in an e-mail.

But while the new app will surely be a hit with consumers worldwide, industry analysts don't expect to see the same enthusiasm among enterprise IT departments -- which means Canadian businesses won't be missing much.

The free Skype iPhone app will allow non-Canadian users to make Skype-to-Skype calls at no cost, call landlines or non-Skype cell phones at a reduced rate, and use the tool's instant messaging service.

A BlackBerry application of the Web-based phone service is expected in May, but Canada will again be missing out, as important features such as Skype Out or Skype-to-Skype calls will be absent. However, Canadian BlackBerry users will be able to use the application to receive calls from other Skype users and for instant messaging services.

Amit Kaminer, a telecom analyst at the SeaBoard Group's Toronto office, said the new Skype for iPhone application would only have appealed to the small business community anyway, such as those with a tiny pool of travelling workers. However, missing features such as teleconferencing, file transfer and voice mail capabilities would have forced even these users to wait for a future release, he said.

"Another drawback is that the iPhone cannot do multi-tasking," Kaminer said. Because applications like Skype can not run in the background, he explained, it will take away from the overall experience.

Kaminer suspects that users will have to be actively using the application to receive notifications that their friends or co-workers are logging online or if they have an incoming call.

Mark Tauschek, senior research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., agreed that the solution needs work and added that it would be nearly impossible to manage its use at the enterprise level, especially when running on an iPhone rather than the future BlackBerry version.

"Travelling workers will often have a SIP-based client that they can connect to their own IP telephony infrastructure with," he added. "This (Skype app) doesn't add much, other than a little bit of a management pain in the neck."

Small businesses currently using Skype on their desktops will probably be fine with it, Tauschek said. The mobile app is going to use the same peering network and the same encryption technology that customers have come to expect.

"But because of the way the peering network works, your voice stream will go through the node of some guy sitting on a Rogers network in his basement, so that's a little disconcerting for large enterprises," he added.

This story, "Skype for iPhone available everywhere but Canada" was originally published by ComputerWorld-Canada .

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