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SkypeKit: Easily Building VoIP Into Any Application

Skype’s just released its SkypeKit development suite for Mac and Windows. This is good news for developers, who can create different apps with Skype’s VoIP powers built right into their code. This, in turn, will only simplify life for chatty consumers.

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Skype’s just released its SkypeKit development suite for Mac and Windows. This is good news for developers, who can create different apps with Skype’s VoIP powers built right into their code. This, in turn, will only simplify life for chatty consumers.

SkypeKit–an SDK for hooking up to Skype’s VoIP systems–was announced a few weeks ago, but at that stage it was largely a curiosity from a consumer’s point of view as it only worked for Linux-based software. Today’s launch of Mac OS X and Windows versions of the SkypeKit SDK is much bigger news, and indicates that many more pieces of everyday software will be getting VoIP powers, it’s a clear indication of the future direction of Skype’s business model itself.

Skype announcement notes that “Now almost any desktop application can offer Skype conversations — including video, voice, and text — without the need for users to separately download Skype software.” Though this trick seems a subtle one, it’s actually not. Now computer users won’t have to fiddle with running Skype while they’re busy using other pieces of code, reducing the need to do all that technical fiddling of swapping between windows: A Skype button and simple UI will simply be embedded in the package their using instead.

But what packages are we talking about, exactly? It’s almost anything you can imagine. For a start, in games like World of Warcraft players already use third party VoIP systems like Ventrilo (or even Skype, as a separate app) to coordinate their gaming efforts–and this would be much simpler, and potentially less likely to cause irritating system crashes, if it were integrated right into the games. But there’s potential for Skype to find a home inside software like iPhoto–where one client is chatting with another about photos using Skype, and uses the same system to quickly share a photo under discussion. Or even inside desktop publishing software, where Skype’s group-chat powers would aid collaborative working.

But can we discern a new mode of business dealings for Skype in this too? Maybe. By almost removing itself from the user experience (making its systems so easy to use they’re almost transparent to the user, and integrated into someone else’s code–not as a logo-emblazoned app all of its own), Skype is actually acting not so much as a VoIP service, but as an entire back-end integrated chat platform. And if Skype can engineer its way into other company’s code, in a way analogous to Google’s integration into that little search window up there in your browser’s icon bar, then its aiming at capturing the long-term cash that comes from being a stable widely used platform versus a plain old VoIP service like so many of its competitors. If Skype also embraces Apple’s FaceTime video chatting protocol, like it has hinted it wants to, then its future looks even more assured.

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

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