Given the impressive adoption numbers of the iPhone on a weekly basis, I’m simply stumped as to why Skype isn’t taking the iPhone platform more seriously.  Sure, they have an app, but it’s almost like they created it just to say they have an app in the App Store.

Skype has almost single handily revolutionized what it means to communicate in today’s digital world, and they’ve made it infinitely easier for ones across long distances to stay in relatively close touch with one another. So why is Skype resting on its laurels? Is this the attitude of a company who’s simply satisfied with its accomplishments thus far?  Does having 1 in 11 of the world’s population among your growing list of users result in stifling innovation? We examine the situation inside…

Without a doubt these are all questions that a growing number of folks are wondering, while we’re still left without a full featured Skype mobile app.  With yesterday’s announcement and subsequent beta release of FaceTime for desktop Mac platforms, this signaled a direct and full on assault against Skype’s empire.  This is what Skype does.  This is what Skype perfected. Now their space is being seriously threatened for the first time.

Video chat is accepted among the masses, amongst grandmas and grandpas the world over, all because of Skype.  So, it’s baffling to watch as mediocre updates trickle out without so much as a subtle hint about the company’s future intentions for the iPhone. One thing that has been hinted about is the recently released Skype app for the Android platform, but even that statement was partially retracted concerning actual video calls.

In 2010, Skype isn’t going to suffer any repercussions for their lackadaisical attitude, but give it a few years and it certainly could come back to bite them.  There’s really no excuse for the position that they find themselves currently in, as there has been more than enough time to build upon the groundwork that they’ve already established on the iPhone.

Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that Internet Explorer once dominated web browsing, but eventually better solutions came along, and Microsoft didn’t keep up with the innovations of their competitors.  Now their market share in the browser space is indicative of their mistakes from yesteryear. Skype, you’re currently playing with the same fire.

With a rapidly growing user base, FaceTime has several advantages over Skype that could eventually spell its trouble in the long run.  Number one: FaceTime is totally native on iOS devices, and eventually will be native on the Mac platform as well.  That equals millions upon millions of new users, pretty much over night.  Number two: You don’t even have to create an account to use FaceTime, so that’s one less hurdle for Apple to overcome.

Finally, Apple has the vast marketing resources to really push this feature to the next level.  Sure, Skype has done a fairly commendable job in this area, but their campaign has been more of a grass roots initiative than anything.  Apple has the dollars to throw into the advertising ring, so once they establish that groundwork across all of their platforms, it could be a hard ship to bring to shore.  And believe it or not, it’s not too far fetched to envision FaceTime existing in the living room, courtesy of the Apple TV.  Apple’s sold a quarter of a million of those devices in a little less than a month, with plenty of foreseeable momentum.

The final frontier for FaceTime will of course be Windows machines, and I think that’s a strong possibility to happen sometime in 2011.  It happened with Quicktime, it happened with iTunes, it happened with Safari, why not FaceTime?  If that comes to fruition, five years from now you could be looking at a different landscape in the video calling arena.  From there, it’s only a matter of time until Apple enables traditional phone calls for the service as well.

If FaceTime ends up being the dominant video calling solution, analysts will surely pinpoint 2010 as the period when the pendulum began to shift away from Skype, and towards Apple. You can’t say Skype didn’t have the time to fix things. You can’t say they weren’t warned.

What do you think? Are you sick and tired of waiting for video calling via Skype on your iPhone?

  • My thoughts exactly! I imagine masses of Skype employees sitting around playing paper football or something. What are they DOING?! Update the app already!

  • Irha

    Agree with most of your thoughts, but what exactly happened with QuickTime and Safari on windows? iTunes was forced up on us by ipods and iphones (irrespective of the fact that a lot of us hate them, especially for the sake of ipod), and QuickTime is forced by iTunes (I didn’t have it installed on any of pcs or laptops until iTunes forced it, excluding one hackintosh netbook, of course). I don’t know a single windows user who uses safari browser. I installed it once to just give it a try when Apple first announced the windows version, but never really used it and it is gone when I upgraded to windows 7. I can’t see FaceTime being forced upon non-iOS users yet, unless it is automatically installed with iTunes without an option. Even then, considering that the penetration of various IM services (yahoo, google, MSN, Skype etc.) is already in several orders of magnitude higher than the iOS users, and still manage to coexist, I don’t think the raise of any single network would mean a big impact on the rest. At our home we frequently end up using google, yahoo and skype to do video and audio chats, but I don’t think FaceTime will be in that list anytime soon.

    • I agree with your sentiments about QuickTime, but I actually did use Safari for a while on Windows, it wasn’t too terrible. But I did eventually ditched it for Chrome. I now use Chrome exclusively.

    • I disagree to some extent, it depends on what you are used to when it comes to browsers. I started years ago preferring Netscape to IE and stuck with everything Mozilla based, which includes Safari. I personally know a lot of Windows users using either Firefox or Safari instead of IE.

      MS was slow implementing the features Mozilla had, like tabbed browsing. That one is popular with the masses and even when IE added it it was buggy and slow. At work I have IE, Firefox and Safari installed. If I open a site with any amount of content on it, IE is the slowest browser to work.

      I can load a news site like Washington Post in 3-4 seconds with my Mozilla based browsers and it can seriously take 45-60 seconds in IE because it chokes on the media.

      • Irha

        I hope you are not kidding by saying Safari is Mozilla based. There is absolutely no common code base between them. Mozilla is based on Gecko while Safari and Chrome (and almost every one of the current mobile browsers) use WebKit.

    • DoNt WoRrY aBoUt It

      i’m using Safari Web Brower right now and i like it better than internet explorer browser 🙂 lol

  • I think Skype will fall by the wayside. I have had Skype accounts for years but almost never used them with the low cost of unlimited long distance and the like on cell phones.
    I have been saying for years it’s only a matter of time before everything media is on a single screen in your home including video calls. More or less like the view screens on Star Trek and Apple is pushing this big time.
    At some point it will all be VoIP as well with standard copper pairs for voice going the route of the dinosaurs.

    • Irha

      On the other hand, Skype was the only app that reliably worked on all major platforms for voice and video chat. Couple of years back when I loaded ubuntu on a netbook, I had hard time finding a single app that had audio and video working right out of the box other than skype. Now, google talk supports has native support via browser plugin, but it is still not as seemless. I do agree that they are falling behind in the mobile space, but nothing they can’t catch up to. But all those bad politics they have been playing (exclusivity with verizon and wifi only etc.) are not going to be any good.

  • I agree that Skype needs to add video chat to the iPhone app yesterday.

    In regards to Facetime, i doubt I will use this soon, since most of the people I know are using non facetime enabled OS, (Windows, Linux) And for those that have smart phone that I would want to Video chat with, don’t have a iPhone, but Nokia, or Android.
    Since Facetime is Apple, it is limited to Apple approved devices, and they are hardly going to make one for Android or any other smartphone, I don’t see them releasing a Linux version either, or other TV devices.

    I have been using Skype for a long time already when it was a small product and people were using netmeeting for video. Since I have family and friends all over the world, and using mobile or landline is far too expensive Skype has saved me a lot of money.

    You can get Skype for all kinds of devices, OS, and even TV’s.
    I bet they will make an app for Google TV, and possibly Apple TV when and if Apple allows apps.
    And i’m sure Skype will eventually get their act together and make a Video chat on iPhone, for now I’m stuck with making Skype voice calls on my iPhone and Video calls on my Mac.

  • R3alRom3

    I’m not surprised at how well this article was written great job Jeff exceptional work!

  • Jason masters

    Even yahoo has video chat now on the iPhone what’s skype waiting fir it’s ridiculous !

    • I think Skype doesn’t want to give it all up to Apple’s FaceTime but like Jefff said, that could cost them a lot in the near future.

  • Twited21

    Apple are taking their time with a working windows version when that happens skype are gonna have to get off there asses otherwise they will fail

    I like skype and to be honest if apple released the windows version then it’s bye bye skype for me

  • Derek Cassells

    Has anyone else noticed how CPU hungry FaceTime is compared to Skype? Why is that?

  • I wouldn’t put it past Apple to never release FaceTime for Windows. I think that, in light of their reveal of OS Lion, Apple is becoming more and more of a “walled garden.” I wouldn’t be surprised if more and more products/software that Apple releases becomes native only to the Mac/iOS platform.

    Apple seems to be pulling farther and farther into their own bubble with things like the Mac App Store. I believe Apple wants to eventually be in your living room, your pocket, your kitchen and your computer room – and not share that space with anyone else.

    • Alex, I totally agree with you. Apple has always been a company trying to promote their own stuff only for their own stuff and not share it with anybody else. I’m surprised they even released iTunes for Windows and not make everybody buying Macs with their iPhones 🙂

  • Z

    Well, here are a few things I think of it:
    1. FaceTime will probably be ported to windows
    2. FaceTime is only available on A4 chip idevices, when Y!Messenger managed to utilize the camera on 3GS as well
    3. If skype does not come up with an update including video streaming soon, they are to lose a bunch of customers.

  • Chico

    I agree tha skype has to be update but I don’t think they will lose the battle against facetime.

    We’re forgetting that skype offers us cheap calls and heaps of other features that facetime doesn’t…
    And I’m not even talking about compatibility. Facetime is MAC/iOS compatible, skype is all over the place and in preaty much ever single mobile.

  • BjornB

    If Apple should release a windows version… So far, as far as I know, almost all Windows software titles from Apple are horribly slow, bloated and frankly ugly. The ones you name are perfect examples of this. Almost no one uses them unless forced to. Video via skype on the phone could be a feature, but by far it is voice that is the thing for us the unwashed masses 🙂

    It is interesting to see how hyped facetime is. Videocalls via phones have been a staple commodity in mobile phones for over 5 years and failed to penetrate. Normally people do not want to be on video when talking. But Apple have made it before so I digress.

  • MickGee

    Skype is headed towards a cliff. I even told them so on their own community website (which I’m sure they all but ignore):

    http://forum.skype.com/index.php?showtopic=746603

    MickGee

  • Michaelc

    I have already dumped skype for voice calls to phones since Google voice is free and works perfectly, has loads of handy features, and you get a free phone number too whereas skype charges $3/mo to call out to phones and another $60/year for a phone number without a lot of features.

    If google voice can get their app to work with video on iphones then they could be the winners in this game since with the next OS version all the android phones will get video chat and all the computer platforms already work with google video chat.