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RadioShack To Carry Skype VoIP Service

The free VoIP service Skype brokered its first foray into retail when RadioShack agreed to stock several Skye-enabled telephony products.

The product lineup will include the new Motorola H500 Bluetooth headset and PC850 USB adapter bundled in an “Internet Calling Kit.” The kit will be available exclusively at RadioShack for a limited time for a suggested price of $99.99.

The kit will also contain 30 free SkypeOut minutes, allowing users to forward Skype calls to mobile and landline phones without additional charges.

The Motorola headset allows users running Skype on their PCs to make calls from up to 30 feet away. PCs and laptops without Bluetooth connectivity built-in can use the included adapter. Included software helps the user establish a connection between the adapter and headset.

The headset features six hours of talk time.

RadioShack will also carry the previously announced Linksys CIT200 Skype-enabled cordless Internet telephony kit for a suggested $129.99 (with a limited time $15 mail-in rebate); the Logitech Premium USB headset 250 (suggested $39.99); the Voice VoIP Cyberphone K USB Internet phone (suggested $39.99); and a Skype Starter Pack, priced at $4.99 until Dec. 24. The starter pack includes the Skype software, headset and 30 SkypeOut minutes to call any number anywhere in the world

Skype, which was purchased by online auction site eBay, will be ambitious in its retail strategy, said Saul Klein, marketing VP. The company will have a “Skype Corner” in 3,000 RadioShack locations to promote its service.

Skype differs from other off the shelf VoIP services like Vonage in that it requires a PC to be on at all times to place a phone call. As such, it is not a “primary line” replacement as it cannot offer emergency dialing or traditional phone numbers.

The service is free when one Skype users calls other Skype users. The company also offers a SkypeOut pay service for placing calls from Skype to non-Skype users and a SkypeIn service which gives the user a phone number accessible to non-Skype callers.

Since there are typically no monthly fees associated with the service, the company won’t necessarily be offering activations or residuals to give retailers incentives. Instead, Klein argued that Skype’s vast user base of 66 million registered users worldwide and 5 million registered users in the United States constitute an enormous potential hardware market.

“We add about a Vonage a month” in terms of customer acquisition, Klein added.