Nokia wants to pre-install Skype on its N97 handset, allowing users to make free calls over the service. It's been reported that, should Nokia do so, UK operators O2 and Orange will refuse to offer the N97 unless the Skype service is stripped from the phone first. Ouch!
The operators' thinking seems to be that, if customers are allowed to make free and cheap calls on their phones using Skype, they won't bother making calls the conventional way, depriving networks of money from call charges.
Instead, they'd have to pay for data costs, since Skype requires an Internet connection on the phone. They could use Wi-Fi, of course, but most would still be paying their monthly subscription or top-up fees for calls and data away from their home network.
It's an issue that doesn't seem to bother 3 -- it's sold Skype-enabled phones for ages. Additionally, Nokia already offers Skype for use on the N800 and N810 handsets via a free download from Nokia.com, and the handsets are available unlocked for use on O2, Orange and other networks.
We contacted O2 to find out what was up. "We have made no announcement yet on whether we will stock this handset," an O2 spokesperson told us via email. "We are working with Nokia to understand the service and the business model. Our aim is to make people's lives easier and we are embracing all sorts of new applications and services on mobiles."
We'll have to play the waiting game. The N97 will be out by spring, with or without Skype.