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Skype Revamps Online Store

Luxembourg — True to its word, Skype re-launched its online store to help peddle the growing array of Skype-certified VoIP gear.

The company also introduced a new version of its software in an effort to push new community-oriented features.

The company announced at CES that it would begin to aggressively leverage its online store in 2007, using the “Skype live” button in its application to alert the company’s roughly 170 million users to new hardware deals and promotions.

The company billed the move as the first of several steps that it will take to promote its paid services and partners’ hardware.

Skype’s revamped store comes from the e-commerce firm Digital River, which is providing order management, fulfillment and customer service for Skype.

The store will carry the full line of Skype products, from USB phones to Web-cams and it will serve as a platform for “exclusive bundles.” The first of which is a package that includes the SMC Wi-Fi phone, FON’s La Fonera wireless router, 500 SkypeOut minutes and a year’s worth of free voicemail for $159.

The Skype store will offer a new guided recommendation tool which will help consumers find hardware based on their Skype usage, alongside a list of new and best selling products.

To kick-start the re-launch, Skype will waive shipping on orders over $80 and will offer a number of rebates and discounts including $30 off Logitech’s $79 QuickCam Pro 5000; $10 off Logitech’s USB Headset 350 (typically $49); a $50 mail-in rebate on Netgear’s $229 SPH101 Wi-Fi phone and $10 off D-Link’s DPH-50U USB phone adapter (typically $59).

European users will see discounts on Philip’s products, among others.

Alongside its new online e-commerce push, Skype introduce version 3.1 for Windows with two new features: SkypeFind and a beta version of SkypePrime.

SkypeFind lets users rate, review and log their favorite businesses. The company positioned the feature as a means for Skype users to tap into the distributed knowledge of its vast user base to find recommendations on businesses.

Skype Prime will allow Skype users to sell their knowledge online to other Skype users. Users set their own fees (paid through PayPal) and Skype gets 30 percent of the transaction. Users are free to charge on a per-minute basis or set a one time fee with a maximum charge of $12.

According to Skype, its application has been downloaded over 500 million times since its launch.