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26 May 2011, 09:05

Skype for Asterisk disconnecting

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Digium Logo Digium, the company behind the free Asterisk telephony software, is discontinuing sales of its proprietary Asterisk extension Skype for Asterisk (SfA). A letter was circulated to Digium channel partners which explained that the Asterisk add-on was developed with the assistance of Skype and contained components which were owned by Skype. Skype had decided to terminate the contract with Digium that allowed it to supply Skype for Asterisk to its customers. The letter continued saying "Therefore Skype for Asterisk sales and activations will cease on July 26, 2011".

Mark Amick, director of Product Management confirmed the content of the letter saying it was "extremely disappointed by Skype's decision to terminate the contract which allows for Skype for Asterisk, we understand that they have changing business models". Skype have told Digium that they will continue to support existing users (and those that purchase and activate before July 26th) for another two years.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft announced an $8.53 billion deal to acquire Skype, a sum that was considered surprisingly large by market observers. In an earlier blog posting, Digium CEO Danny Windham had expressed concerns that the takeover of Skype by Microsoft could bring disadvantages for the development of Skype because Microsoft would try to tie it more closely into its own software and exclude competing products; he said the deal could raise questions about "the level of commitment that Microsoft will make to open standards and to widespread integration".

Skype spokesperson Jennifer Caukin told US media that the decision was taken before the Microsoft deal was made and that the product was being discontinued so that Skype could concentrate on its standards-compliant Skype Connect product: "Skype made the decision to retire Skype for Asterisk several months ago, as we have prioritized our focus around implementing the IETF SIP [Session Initiation Protocol] standard in our Skype Connect solution". Skype says that it is putting its weight behind the SIP open standard because it "enjoys the broadest support of any of the available signaling alternatives by business communications equipment vendors, including Digium".

Asterisk can connect to Skype over SIP but, according to Digium's Steve Sokol, the Skype for Asterisk solution was "the most feature-rich means of integrating with the Skype network". One developer with experience of SfA, Tim Panton, wrote that it had been technically effective, for example handling Skype presence properly, but that the deal between Skype and Digium appeared to have been the source of tension between the two companies since the 2008 introduction of the product.


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