OpenSky – Gizmo5 to Skype Calls – Some Issues | Some Questions

February 10, 2009

in Skype Journal, VoIP

I’ve had an interesting email exchange with Michael Robertson this morning as I asked a few questions about his new OpenSky product.  This new Gizmo5 calling service “OpenSky” creates a gateway so anyone can call a Skype contact from any number. As always with Gizmo they have all the routing capabilities from mobile, from web, from a Gizmo5 client etc. It just proves again that everything can be connected.

Gizmo5 – OpenSky Description and how to use:

OpenSky is a free service provided by Gizmo5 which allows any mobile phone, web browser or IP aware phone network (SIP, asterisk, etc) to communicate with Skype users. OpenSky supports sending text messages and voice calls.

So who’s going to use it?
Micheal Robertson responds:

The calling world is much bigger than Skype and now they can connect with Skype.

  • There are tens of millions of seats for Cisco Call Manager, Avaya and other high end PBX systems which cannot call Skype users and now they can.
  • There are tens of millions of seats using low cost Asterisk, Yate, FreeSwitch, Trixbox which cannot call Skype users and now they can.
  • There are more than 10 million Nokia Wifi phones which cannot call Skype users and now they can:
  • There are millions of SIP ATA devices and wifi phones which cannot call Skype users and now they can.
  • 90% of mobile phones do not have a data plan and cannot call a Skype user and now they can. see:

I’m a little less certain about this. While I’ve argued for years that Skype should offer a product that turns my Skype name into a SIP ID so I can use it and other can contact me that way it hasn’t happened. Similarly I can’t call a SIP ID from Skype and that too might be useful. In this illustration I’d pay Skype for the priviledge. I’m also using it to make myself more accessible. I do think some will use this to connect Grand Central or some other service to their Skype account. Why?Not really sure.

In contrast “OpenSky” enables other services to try and call SkypeID’s. It provides a gateway and will connect a SIP capable service with Skype. This is where OpenSky broke down for me. The primary issue  of whether this service will be successful is based on Skype User behavior. I believe the majority are like me. They don’t accept calls from unknown users. They change their Skype preferences to block unknown callers (non buddies) and many women block the chat too.

On my first and second tests before changing my preference I got a chat message: opensky_03:”You are about to receive an OpenSky Voice call from 9257YYXXXX.” The call didn’t go through because of my preferences. OpenSky shared my mobile number too. Just surprised me. Changed preferences and my free call lasted approx 3 minutes. You have to buy a package starting at $20 per year to achieve unlimited calling.

To check my theory I tried to OpenSky 3 other friends. All had their preferences set to block such calls. The question I have is how many calls are likely to go through? I know Michael is already looking at this so they may well find a solution (make it easy for me to add a OpenSky contact) and their own call/connect logs may indeed prove my fear is unfounded.

The funny thing is Skype really started the lowcost free calling revolution. Now costs and other services have come down to such a point that Skype is fighting to stay relevant. The mobile handset has become the major device. While we still have expensive international calls there will be needs for different forms of interconnect. However my experience says the number of contacts a user has in this regard still tends to be a handful rather than a multitude. Calling a Skype user for the most part is calling a PC. Calling a PC is dying. Skype is trying to maintain some relevance with video. I hope their strategy is better than that.

From a consumer perspective Skype already offers “SkypeToGo” which solves my mobile to Skype or cheap international calls problems. From Michael’s comments he’s more interested in the business type opportunities. I can also see him selling a number of his packages to “call centers” who want to sell into Skype. The failure to go through doesn’t matter. They just need Skype names to make the calls. Still that’s a fine balance when every inbound call to the Skype has the ID “OpenSky_##”  One sex line customer could sort of wreck the “prestige” for anyone else. That means to sell to larger customers they will have to offer a custom gateway service.

I’m pleased to see that someone is continuing to promote VoIP solutions. I think too much time is being wasted on interconnecting with Skype. Skype’s a low cost channel. Most of us have more than one channel. Still the real innovation to come is around directories, call signaling, presence, callerID, personal interconnect rules, and context.

Just read Om’s post His view seems similar.

  • Stuart,

    Thanks for the discussion about OpenSky. Two quick follow ups. Do you believe there are hundreds of millions of business VOIP users who would like to call Skype but currently cannot because their Asterisk, Cisco, Avaya, etc systems are incompatible with Skype? Why wouldn’t they want to call the Skype community?

    As for mobile phones Skype Lite only works on mobile phones with data plans and 90% of mobile phones have no data plan. Still others have data plans but have low memory footprints so they cannot run downloaded software. That’s a whole lot of mobile phones that cannot call Skype. Surely some percentage of those users want to call Skype.

  • FYI,
    FreeSWITCH has had a Skype implementation in beta for about six weeks. We actually now have two different Skype implementations each with a different design objective.

  • Michael,

    I think there are millions of VoIP users out there. Most don’t even know they use VoIP. Where Skype to Skype relationships have to exist eg with a contractor in India Skype is often installed even in companies. At the educated end…. Those that can master the VoIP to Skype approach usually have a myriad of options available to them at both ends including SkypeIn. Only one party really needs to know how. Overall, I’m really unsure about the size of market for this gateway service. I remain surprised Skype doesn’t offer it to their customers so the one’s that really need it can then offer it (a SIP address) to their customers/contacts.

    I believe there are ways to bring new VoIP solutions to market that will change the way we think about telephony and reward these businesses with millions of users with increases in service, productivity and lower costs. I think it is a mistake to focus too much on Skype or their user base.

    I wasn’t referring to SkypeLite rather SkypeToGo which enables a Skyper to use their Skype account on their mobile.

    If you’d like to find new ways to challenge Skype and would be interested in supporting our efforts we’d be delighted to discuss further. Strategically it’s time to challenge the parts of their business that don’t work and concurrently challenge the way we make calls in the first place.

    It an area I’ve thought long and hard about. Thanks for the comments and for sharing.

  • Stuart, isn’t the $20 OpenSky the equivalent of what you’ve been asking Skype to do, i.e turning yoyr Skype ID into a SIP address?

    “While I’ve argued for years that Skype should offer a product that turns my Skype name into a SIP ID so I can use it and other can contact me that way it hasn’t happened.”

    Now it has happened – except it’s not from Skype, but from Gizmo. Only difference is who you pay the fee too, right?

  • David,
    Don’t think so. If I pay the money and give you my OpenSky Sip id which you would have to be on Gizmo to use…. and it would only connect for 5 minutes unless you paid the fee. From Skype that SIP charge would be my fee and you could enter it into any VoIP SIP system and contact me. It also still has issues with the CallerID.

  • David,
    Yes you are right. I tried it out on Phweet and indeed anyone could use the SIP ID with OpenSky to make a call to Skype as long as the permissions were open. Ie allowed anonymous calls. So yes I could buy it and others would benefit from it. The reason I won’t traces to the opening up my Skype to any spam caller.

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