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Skype calls could switch between TV and satnav

CEO envisions switching devices during calls

Skype CEO Josh Silverman wants to give users the ability to switch devices without interrupting voice and video calls made using his company's software.

Skype lets users make free voice and video calls between PCs and mobile devices, and can be used to call landline and mobile phones for a small fee. Silverman wants to extend these capabilities to a wider range of devices, including in-car navigation systems and televisions, to create what he calls "ubiquitous communication".

Skype will eventually give users the ability to seamlessly switch devices between calls at the push of a button, Silverman said, describing a scenario where an engineer starts a conference call on his desktop PC at work, switches first to a mobile phone and then to his in-car navigation system, without disrupting the call. Currently, Skype users can transfer calls to contacts or phones using the software's call transfer feature, but that feature doesn't yet allow users to transfer calls between devices using the same account.

Televisions and other items, such as an internet-equipped refrigerator, will also give users the ability to make voice and video calls from just about anywhere in the home. "Any computing device becomes a communications device with our software," Silverman said, speaking to attendees on the opening day of Singapore's CommunicAsia telecommunications exhibition.

Skype is moving towards making Silverman's vision real, building on its large and growing base of users. The company had 560 million registered users at the end of 2009 and is adding 300,000 new users every day, Silverman said.

Growth will likely continue next year as PC makers are expected to ship 100 million computers with Skype's software preinstalled, he said.

The company is also moving beyond computers, extending its focus to mobile devices and consumer electronics. Earlier this year, Panasonic, LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics all announced plans to install Skype on their flat-panel televisions. The company also recently announced a version of its software for Nokia's Symbian OS, adding to versions available for Research In Motion's BlackBerry, Apple's iPhone, Google's Android, and Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating systems.

To date, Skype has been installed on 12 million iPhones, or roughly 15 percent of all iPhones and iPod Touches shipped by Apple, Silverman said. When the latest version of Skype was released for the iPhone - giving users the ability to make free calls over a 3G data connection - 5 million copies of the software were downloaded during the first four days of its release, he said.

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