February 8, 2006 9:10 AM PST

Service lets Skype users chat on cell phones

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PHOENIX--For the tens of millions of Skype users worldwide, making calls over the Internet is a free or cheap experience that has the AT&Ts and Verizons of the world wondering how they're going to keep up.

But with the exception of Skype's phone that can connect to Wi-Fi networks, the service's members have been tied to their computers and thus to limited locations.

On Tuesday, Eqo Communications, a Vancouver, British Columbia, start-up, launched its mobile Internet phone service, a package that allows Skype users to talk to each other via cell phones.

But unlike traditional calling, which requires the use of phone numbers--and also means that once you give your number to people, they will always be able to reach you--Eqo is built around the idea of letting people reach out to each other via identities, or buddy lists.

The idea, said CEO Bill Tam, is that people sometimes want to be able to connect with each other, especially when they don't know each other that well, without giving out something so personal as a phone number.

Thus, Eqo allows users to tell when people on their Skype buddy lists are available, and if so, to call them directly on their mobile phones, so long as the phone has support for Sun Microsystems' Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME). That means, Tam said, that for now, Eqo won't work on services like Verizon Wireless, which uses BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) to run dynamic applications.

"Skype took a buddy list-centric view of how communities work," said Tam, "with names rather than numbers. It's an example of how to take (lessons) of instant messaging and apply it to voice."

Essentially, he said, using buddy list names means that Skype users can decide who they want to be able to contact them, and make changes to their buddy lists at any time. And therefore, they can feel comfortable knowing that only people they want to hear from will be able to call them.

In any case, when a Skype user wants to call others using Eqo, he or she looks to see if they're available and then initiates the call. The other person gets a notification that a call is incoming, which also lets him or her choose whether to accept the call.

For now, Eqo's service is available only on Skype. But the company promises that its partnership with Skype is just the beginning; it plans to partner with any number of social services, among them dating sites, social-networking services like LinkedIn or MySpace, and even the America Onlines of the world.

Tam explained that Eqo hopes to convince those services--as it has Skype--that it offers a revenue-generating technology that can bridge the gap between online communities' users by enabling them to talk to each other regardless of where they are. The idea is that people will pay a fee for the ability to communicate with each other, always using buddy lists or online identities via their cell phones.

In the meantime, Tam said, Eqo isn't working with mobile carriers. But he explained that the company hopes to demonstrate, with its Skype partnership and later deals with other services, that it can play a crucial role in the mobile ecosystem. And thus, Eqo hopes that it will convince carriers that it could be valuable to them in the future.

See more CNET content tagged:
Eqo Communications, buddy list, Skype, call, cell phone


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Clueless writer: You can use Skype from Windows Mobile phones
"But with the exception of Skype's phone that can connect to Wi-Fi networks, the service's members have been tied to their computers and thus to limited locations."

Wrong. With Skype's Windows Mobile (Windows CE/PocketPC) client and a phone with 3G EV-DO capability you can use Skype being mobile and from anywhere int country. In fact I do just that with on my Sprint PPC 6700 phone. How about Clueless C|Net writers do some better research next time?
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can Also Run Skype On A PDA With WIFi
I run Skype on my Dell Axim PDA all the time. All I need is access to a hotspot -- either free or paid. When I'm at home, I can use it like a cordless phone off the wireless connection from my router. I plug a pair of lightweight headphones in, put the PDA in my shirtpocket, and I'm good to go.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can I use Skype on a PDA if I subscribe to cell carrier's internet service?

Do you think I can use Skype on a PDA if I subscribe to my cell carrier's internet service?

Posted by BostonMatt (1 comment )
Link Flag
Great, Indeed...
If we can see forest better than threes, we can conclude how is booming this new. With so many people traveling the world and with this new toll turning possible to someone in USA to cal in his mobile to UK or Germany for two cents a minute, using only a cheap cell phone like a Siemens C65, everyone can see how TELECOM Companies could be affected.
For me personally struggled in Brazil making IT offshore outsourcing from INDIA and with clients with HQ´s in USA and EU it will be lovely.
Is not a question of hardware competition with PALM or TRIO equipments&
Posted by IDIGITAL (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
i can call phone to pc using with VoSKY
i want to know about my subject.
Posted by htoohla (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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