SkypeKit Beta Could Bring VoIP Calling To Nearly Any Connected Device

There's just no question that Skype has revolutionized calling, and has basically delivered VoIP to the mainstream. Before Skype, VoIP was mostly used to make intracompany calls and teleconference calls, but few consumers bothered with it. The setup was simply too difficult, and there was no unified way to actually find someone else who was setup to handle VoIP calling. But you knew that the Internet had the chance to revolutionize calling thanks to the elimination of "roaming," and that it did.

VoIP carriers began to pop up everywhere, from Vonage to cable companies. But even those used a standard phone number, so international calling still cost something. Skype, however, enabled people around the world to call each other based on a username, basically creating IM but for phone and video calling. The only catch today is that Skype still isn't available but on a few devices. You either need a PC/Mac with a desktop Skype application loaded up, or you need a smartphone with Skype on it. But that's about to chance.

Skype recently introduced SkypeKit Beta, which is a set of developer tools that will essentially allow nearly any connected device (an HDTV, MID, UMPC, Tablet PC, vehicle, etc.) connect to the Skype network and enable VoIP calling. At first, this is being opened up to programmers on an invite-only basis for those using Linux OS, but SkypeKit for Windows and Mac will be available within the next few weeks.

SkypeKit will not only include a robust set of APIs for a variety of popular Skype features, including voice and video calling and instant messaging, it will also deliver Skype’s signature super wideband audio, based on the SILK codec. In addition, developers who use SkypeKit will be able to describe them as "plugged into Skype."

There's still a lot of work to be done before Skype starts appearing on any connected device, but the FAQ below does a great job of explaining what exactly SkypeKit Beta brings to the table. If you aren't a Skype user yet, we doubt you'll be able to hold out much longer.

Who is SkypeKit for?

For our initial beta release of SkypeKit, it is designed for consumer electronics device manufacturers and desktop software innovators.

Why aren’t web developers able to use SkypeKit now?

We don’t offer an SDK for web developers currently. Given our experience providing desktop software and working with device manufacturers, having an SDK for devices and desktop applications are a natural place for us to start extending Skype capabilities today.

Are you working on a web services version?

We know there is demand among web developers, but we have nothing to announce at this time.

Didn’t Skype have a set of public APIs before, and what’s the difference with SkypeKit?

The long-standing Skype Public API is a solution for accessories such as headsets and webcams that connect to Skype’s standard desktop clients. But for years, developers have been looking for a solution that works WITHOUT a Skype desktop application. Enter SkypeKit. Think of SkypeKit as a "headless" version of Skype – that is, a Skype client with no user interface that runs invisibly, not only on PCs, but also TVs, notebooks, and other connected devices. Developers communicate with SkypeKit through the SkypeKit API, surfacing Skype calls through their own applications.

With the advent of SkypeKit, is Skype no longer supporting its public API?

Skype will continue to support its public API, because there is an active ecosystem of hardware and software developers already using it.

How will Skype ensure that SkypeKit has significant uptake by developers and what improvements are you making to your developer program?

In talking to our developers, we heard loud and clear that they wanted clearer navigation, easier-to-understand documentation, and better support. We believe that our initial version of Skype Developer is a big first step in that direction. Content is segmented into clear areas (SkypeKit, Public API, SILK, etc.), and we’ve spent a lot of time refining the documentation. We’ve heard from SkypeKit beta program developers (who got an early look at Skype Developer) that they see a huge improvement, so we think we’re on the right track. It’s a first step, and we will continue to evolve it with the feedback of developers.

Is SkypeKit a new revenue stream for the company?

SkypeKit supports our existing revenue streams by expanding Skype software onto more devices and platforms. The fees we will charge to use SkypeKit are quite nominal and simply help us manage the program and have more quality control over the third-party products that will tap into our software tool kits.

What are the fees for using SkypeKit?

To get started, we will charge a nominal membership fee — less than $20 US — for access to the program and SkypeKit. Once a third-party product is ready for commercialization, there is an add-on fee for user experience and audio/video testing and certification, which we require to make sure products are ready and qualified for our plugged into Skype descriptor that is awarded to approved products.

What is plugged into Skype?

SkypeKit developers can employ the plugged into Skype descriptor for marketing purposes.

Is SkypeKit ‘open’? What will you restrict?

The topic of openness is often debated and its definition can mean different things to different people. For starters, we believe in an open Internet and open standards. We are adopting an open approach meaning we are releasing APIs and enabling others to use SkypeKit and apply it in new ways. But, SkypeKit won’t be opened up to every single use case that developers dream up. For example, our license terms prohibit using SkypeKit for gambling or adult-themed applications.

Will there be a new Skype app store?

The Skype Shop contains recommended Skype Certified™ accessories and devices that are designed to enhance our users’ calling and video experience. Skype Shop will also be the marketplace destination where plugged into Skype products and applications can be showcased and merchandised to Skype users.

How can I get started?

Starting June 23rd, developers can request an invitation to join the Beta Program.