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Makers of phone program Skype go mobile

/ Source: The Associated Press

The peer-to-peer phone program Skype, which lets computer users make free calls to each other anywhere in the world, is going mobile, with a version being released Tuesday for Wi-Fi-equipped digital assistants.

Whether there are enough people who are willing to make a phone call with their personal digital assistants in a train station or library remains to be seen.

But Skype Technologies SA founder Niklas Zennstrom — who also co-created the song-swapping program Kazaa — said the new PocketSkype service was a logical step. He said it is likely to appeal to travelers and tourists who don't want to pay high roaming fees on their cell phones.

"While it's very convenient to use Skype when they're sitting in their office or at home, many people want to be mobile and want to be able to move around," he told The Associated Press on Monday.

PocketSkype works the same way as the desktop version, which boasts nearly 10 million users who can call each other for free. The difference is that PocketSkype accesses the Internet through Wi-Fi wireless "hot spots" in homes, airports, hotels and stores.

After breaking voice into chunks of data, Skype's peer-to-peer setup zaps a conversation through the quickest available networks, ensuring that quality isn't degraded. Privacy is ensured through encryption.

PocketSkype is designed only for handheld computers running Microsoft Corp.'s PocketPC operating system. Zennstrom said similar versions likely could be developed for devices fueled by Palm or Symbian software, but he stopped short of saying that is in the works.