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Skype ready for both telephone worlds

An adapter made by Siemens allows phones to make calls using the Internet or the traditional phone network.

An adapter made by Siemens to extend Internet access to cordless phones is now loaded with Skype Net phone software, allowing the same phone to make calls using the Internet or the traditional phone network.

The coupling of Internet and traditional telephony in a single phone is hard to find now, but it could become more common in years to come if, as expected, more calls flow over the unregulated Internet rather than heavily taxed traditional phone networks.

For decades, the only way to sell local phone services was over the local phone network, which is privately owned. But Skype is among a wave of new companies offering voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, which uses the Internet to make calls. By using VoIP technology, any broadband connection, whether cable, satellite, cell phone, Wi-Fi or WiMax, can become a home phone line.

While there are several jury-rigged methods out there that could achieve the same results, the Siemens-Skype adapter stands out nonetheless because of the pedigree of those involved in its creation. Siemens is among the largest phone manufacturers in the world, and Skype is the most popular VoIP service provider in the world, with more than 1 million users.

"Siemens is delivering a giant step forward for Internet telephony for the residential market," Niklas Zennstrom, Skype's chief executive, said in a statement.

As with most other Internet phone service providers, Skype is also trying to be compatible with as many Internet-enabled devices as possible. VoIP started on PCs, which aren't always well-suited for phone calling. Personal digital assistants and cell phones are a new favorite target of many VoIP providers. Zennstrom said he believes Skype's effort regarding cordless phones is a pioneering one.

The adapter is not for the price-sensitive and is available only in Europe for now. The Siemens Gigaset M34USB adapter is $129, while the six compatible Siemens Gigaset phones cost between $65 and $260. To spur sales, Siemens offers the adapter along with 120 minutes of SkypeOut, a Skype service that lets people place calls to traditional phones from their own high-speed Internet connections. Skype phone calls that are made among PCs and which stay on the Internet are free.

In another major development, Skype on Tuesday also made public a method for programmers writing applications to involve Skype software in some way. "We are keen to watch the world's innovative developer community integrate the Skype application," Zennstrom said in a statement.