Skype hires staff for mobile push


Skype has started to expand its developer teams for mobile platform applications. The company is currently hiring between 20 and 30 Apple iOS and Google Android specialists.

The decision has been seen as a determined move into the mobile arena for the company. It has already produced apps for iPhone, Blackberry and Android users but these have been voice-oriented to allow lower cost calls to be made on smartphones within reach of Wi-Fi networks.

The inclusion of front-facing cameras on the latest mobiles has increased the potential market for extending Skype's video-calling capabilities. The company has been slow to take advantage of this market and applications like Apple FaceTime on the iPhone 4 have been left to popularise mobile video communications.

There is also the appearance of Tango, a start up specialising in video-calls which are not limited to a single platform but can be made between iOS and Android users.

Another opening is the impending boom in tablet device sales. The upcoming second iteration of Apple's iPad is rumoured to have a front-facing camera and the initial tranche of the threatened deluge of Android tablets favoured the same approach. The advantage of a larger screen means tablets could become a major platform for online conferencing.

The environment could also fuel a desire for application sharing to make the most of the tablets' capabilities. This would be a challenge for Skype which could provide strong revenue streams but there has already been signs of strong competition from existing teleconferencing specialist companies.

The Android-based Cius tablet from Cisco has been designed around teleconferencing as an element of its Wi-Fi and 3G TelePresence system. To connect from the device is a one-click process.

When cut loose from eBay, Skype had a small staff which is rapidly being boosted from 110 employees to 350 or so by the end of next year. To sustain this expansion, it will need constantly to find new applications to increase the revenues required for growth.