Skype to release Symbian client by year end

Skype software compatible with the Symbian mobile phone operating system will hit the market by the end of the year, despite rumors that Skype Ltd. had halted development of the product, an executive said during the Symbian Smartphone Show in London.

"Hopefully before Christmas we can satisfy a lot of questions about where Skype is on mobile phones," said Eric Lagier, head of mobile development at Skype, on Tuesday.

Recent reports describing the development of the Symbian product as delayed or derailed aren't true and Skype plans to introduce a client that will run on Symbian phones by the holiday season, he said.

Symbian runs on the vast majority of smartphones, including Nokia Corp.'s high-end phones as well as some handsets from Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. Skype has been discussing the development of the Symbian-based product since last year and Symbian fans have been clamoring for its release but Skype has largely resisted discussing a release date for the product.

Skype software for Symbian phones would allow mobile phone users to make VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) calls over Wi-Fi networks, if the phone supports Wi-Fi, or over 3G (third-generation) networks. Presumably the Skype calls would be less expensive than other mobile calls, but Skype has been vague about pricing for end users. Because mobile operators charge their customers to access 3G networks to make some VOIP calls, Skype would ask for a share of that revenue, said Lagier.

The process of developing the mobile Skype software has been challenging, he said. "People are happy with how their mobile phones work," he said. As such, Skype is compelled to create an application that is easy to use and has the same quality as regular mobile voice calling, he said.

Some mobile operators have resisted the idea of mobile Skype, which could compete with their own voice services, pledging to block the VOIP service. But others have embraced the idea. Earlier this year Hutchison 3 Group announced that it would start testing a mobile Skype offering with the intent of rolling out a commercial service in all of its markets. So far, those trials show that the usage pattern of mobile Skype customers is different than PC customers because they aren't bound to their PCs, Lagier said.

Skype has already introduced a client for some mobile devices that run Windows operating systems.

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