Microsoft has announced the expansion of voice over Internet protocol telephony (VoIP) for Windows Phone 8, enabling the integration of Skype into the phone's operating system in addition to any other 3rd party VoIP applications.
NOTE #1: This is ONLY for the upcoming release of Windows Phone 8 for cell phones, not to be confused with the future release of Windows 8 for desktop, laptop, and tablet computers.
NOTE #2: Skype is now a wholly-owned division of Microsoft. See http://goo.gl/owJtR for details.
Skype and other VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) applications will be able to manage calls across both wi-fi and cellular data connections. In addition, Bluetooth connectivity will also "just work" with Skype and other VoIP apps.
This announcement did not generate much publicity but I suspect it could be revolutionary. If Windows Phone 8 becomes successful and lots of cell phones are sold with the new operating system, millions of people will be encouraged to make voice calls over the Internet instead of using traditional telephone company connections. The impact to telephone companies could be huge. If many users switch to low-cost or free Skype for voice calls, the telephone companies will lose millions of dollars in revenue.
Skype is already available as an application that may be installed by the user on Apple, Android, Blackberry, and some other cell phones but has not been a runaway success on those phones. I have to believe that having it embedded in the operating system will encourage many more users to use Skype for voice calls.
I use the Skype application often on my cell phone whenever I am in range of a wi-fi network so as to not use my cell phone minutes. Skype also works on 3G connections but that usage may or may not impact the monthly allotment of minutes or the amount of data transfer allowed per month. Check on your own cell phone plan to see if data connections are restricted.
Connecting to a wi-fi network is always free as far as the cell phone companies are concerned, although the wi-fi provider might charge for access. I find that Skype on wi-fi also produces better-sounding connections than does Skype on 3G.
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