The New Power of Mobility

Russell Shaw, general manager, Skype Mobile

Russell Shaw, general manager, Skype Mobile

Internet voice maven Skype sees mobile as its next frontier. Initially available as a download for a limited number of mobile phones, Skype has started working with device makers to integrate its apps into their phones as well as with mobile-service providers to offer Skype as an additional alternative to their own voice service. (Verizon recently became the first U.S. mobile carrier to offer unlimited Skype-to-Skype calling on some of its smartphones.) Last year, Skype brought in mobile marketing veteran Russell Shaw to head its mobile efforts. Here, he speaks out about open networks, customer choice and the advent of the mobile office.

A lot of people thought video calling wasn't going to happen, but why? There are more devices starting to come out to support it and more networks starting to support it.

There will still be instances when people don't want to use that video call button, but it's a great way to do business when you want to see someone face-to-face.

When you look at it, what do small-business users really want? Value and control. They want it to be easy to use with no hassles. Skype working with Verizon can offer that. Business mobile users are going to see freedom of choice now.

The walled garden for mobile applications can only last so long before the forces of market and the forces of customers break it down. Customers should have applications flexibility and should be able to use the applications they want wherever they are.

We're a real advocate of open networks and policy because customers want that flexibility. No government should help build barriers that limit creativity and innovation in any way.

Devices are changing, too. The device manufacturers have been learning a lot in recent years about how to make devices more intuitive.

Some companies will always have a physical office location in some way, but the office of the future will have so many permutations--whether you are working in a Starbucks, in the airport or wherever. Mobile helps call into question how much time you spend filing and doing desktop things and whether or not you can do those things from another location.

Abundant Apps
"Doing more on mobile" might be a good theme for small business to work toward, as more apps look to cut the cord on daily functions such as managing travel details, initiating video calls, processing mobile payments and attending meetings.

Sabre TripCase
Developed by the well-known airline booking network Sabre, TripCase is an iPhone app that shows messages, alerts and status updates on travel-related information such as waiting times for security lines, bag claim info, flight status, gate changes and all pertinent flight, hotel and rental car information for different trips.

Skype Mobile
The VoIP and video calling app is no longer available on Windows Mobile phones, but Skype is looking to make up for that by integrating Skype Mobile on more devices out of the warehouse and packaging it with service from mobile carriers like Verizon Wireless.

Charge Anywhere
The latest among a cadre of applications that enable payments by mobile phones, including the capability for small businesses to use mobile phones to process customer credit- and debit-card payments.

Fuze Meeting
This BlackBerry and iPhone app takes videoconferencing toward full collaboration with screen-sharing of presentations and other data, similar to the popular desktop app WebEx. It even lets you "fetch" the folks who haven't shown up yet.

A group chat app that also allows shared presentation, this iPhone player may realize its fullest potential now that it's available for the big-screen iPad, too.

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Dan O'Shea is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering telecom, mobile and other high-tech topics for nearly 20 years.

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This article was originally published in the June 2010 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The New Power of Mobility.

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