Recession-battered small businesses looking for an edge can now find one even if only a small one in Skype, the low-or-no-cost voice-over-Internet service that until now has mainly been of interest to consumers.
Skype, launched in Europe in 2003 but acquired three years ago by eBay, offers free voice and video calling between Internet-connected computers running the Skype software and equipped with microphone and speakers or a plug-in telephone headset.
The Skype software is also an instant messaging (IM) client similar to Microsoft Windows Live or Yahoo Messenger, delivering presence information showing which of your contacts is online and available.
The company makes money by selling premium services, such as voice mail, SkypeIn (a number that people with regular phones can use to call you on your computer via Skype), and very low-cost calling from computers to regular landline phones and cell phones (SkypeOut).
The SkypeOut Unlimited World plan, for example, offers unlimited calling to landlines in over 40 countries including virtually all developed and some developing countries for $12.95 a month. An unlimited U.S. and Canada plan costs $2.95.
A SkypeIn number, available for 45 U.S. states and 20 other countries, costs $18 for three months or $60 a year, with 50 percent off if you also buy a SkypeOut subscription.
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