Truphone continues to surprise. In a late afternoon call with new CEO Geraldine Wilson and founder James Tagg, the company unveiled a new set of capabilities for their iPhone and iPod Touch clients — integration with Skype calling and the Skype IM network, plus the addition of Yahoo, MSN and GoogleTalk IM. According to Ms. Wilson, "This gives Truphone users the choice of how they communicate. Very often the etiquette of calling is that the call is prefaced by a chat, or SMS, or IM before voice."
These new capabilities will be showcased at CES this week, and then released publicly next week.
It’s a very clever strategy. The iPhone platform is notoriously bad for IM support, and with Truphone it gets a fabulous suite of new features. Moreover, by embracing Skype Truphone is simultaneously tapping into the largest PC based VoIP platform in the world and creating an opportunity for themselves to partner with Skype, who have made no secret of their desire to be in mobile platforms.
My immediate thought was that this makes iPhone a competitor to the 3 Skypephone. When asked if Truphone had plans to make a phone like the 3 device, Wilson demurred observing that making phones is complex and Truphone’s specialty is software.
And what of other devices? According to Ms. Wilson, the determining driver will be the presence of an applications store. "The introduction of the iPhone AppStore this year was a defining moment for the mobile industry", said Wilson. "We’re targeting devices that include WiFi, an AppStore, and a great user experience. We don’t want to waste time on devices that require users to have a PhD in order to discover and install applications."
While stating unequivocally that the company was making no announcements about either Google Android or RIM’s Blackberry devices today, both Tagg and Wilson acknowledged that these would be logical choices. Wilson also acknowledged Truphone’s long standing support for Nokia platforms, and expressed confidence that Nokia would have a store in the near future.
All in all, this is an interesting set of announcements. As Om Malik said, "Now I have another reason to use Truphone."