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SAN FRANCISCO • Internet phone company Skype is bringing live video calls to iPhone and iPad screens in an aggressive bid to cash in on the popular devices and build momentum for its imminent public stock offering.
Skype today begins offering a two-way video application for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch its most significant app for Apple products since Skype got into the market in April 2009. Skype's first iPhone app offered only voice and text. (Skype video calls are not available on Android devices.) "It's a natural extension of video on smartphones," Skype CEO Tony Bates says. "You can use video-calling now, via Skype, any time and anywhere."
Skype's technology lets users make free calls between two PCs, smartphones or TVs, but the company charges users to call over land-line phones. The company is profitable, earning $13.1 million for the six months ended June 30, according to its S-1 filing to go public. No date has been set for its IPO.
Skype rushed the app for New Year's Eve, the biggest day of the year for video calls. More than 70 million iPhones and nearly 7.5 million iPads have been sold. A new iPad is rumored to be unveiled soon and feature front and rear video cameras, according to multiple websites, including DigiTimes, citing unnamed sources. USA TODAY was unable to confirm the report.
To be sure, Skype faces hurdles. It has competition from the likes of Cisco Systems, Google and Microsoft which continue to enhance their Internet-calling products and smaller video-calling companies such as Fring and Qik. Apple's FaceTime video chat works over Wi-Fi but not 3G networks.
Skype was also bruised by an outage that affected millions of its users last week, the worst glitch in its seven-year history.
Some 23 percent of Internet users in the USA had video-calling services in the summer of 2010, compared with 20 percent in April 2009, according to Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.