Skype now available for Canuck iPhone users

Almost six months after Skype Technologies SA made its voice-over-IP application available to American users of Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPod Touch, the company has released the software to Canadian customers through Apple’s App Store.

The company announced availability through a press release Wednesday morning.

Skype, which allows free and low-cost Web-based phone communication, was not launched in Canada in April alongside the U.S. version because of patent issues, a company spokesman said at the time.

Aside from free calls to other Skype users, the software allows pennies-per-minute phone calls to landlines and cell phones internationally and instant messaging services.

According to Tom Yeung, Skype’s director of market development for the Americas, the mobile application has been downloaded six million times internationally.

Rather than using the iPhone’s cellular connection, Skype phone calls use Wi-Fi, 3G or EDGE connections to make voice calls. iPod Touch users will be able to make phone calls over Wi-Fi, since the 2G model has audio-in capabilities.

Online auctioneer eBay Inc. bought the VoIP startup in 2005. Last month, it sold off 65 per cent of its interest in Skype for $2.75 billion to a group of private investors that includes the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. eBay paid 2.5 billion for Skype in 2005.

While likely to be a hit with consumers, analysts have said the app is too lightweight for serious enterprise use. In an IT World Canada interview in March, Seaboard Group telecom analyst Amit Kaminer pointed to missing features such as teleconferencing, file transfer and voice mail capabilities, along with the iPhone’s inability to multitask, meaning Skype can’t run in the background.

Mark Tauschek, senior research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., said Skype in the enterprise would cause management headaches, but it might find a niche with small businesses already running the desktop version.

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