Nimbuzz aims at mobile and social networks to turn the screw on Skype

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We last wrote about Nimbuzz in early 2007. Then it was a free application which supported voice, presence, conference calls, and SMS messaging between mobile devices, PC’s, and mobile to PC or PC to mobile. Founded in 2006 and run out of the Netherlands, the service has been in beta since, and now plans to compete with the likes of Jahjah and Skype. The difference is that on Tuesday it will aim squarely at mobile handsets and social networks, launching with a Java and Symbian handset client which will work across a staggering 500 handsets (very hard to achieve). This will allow users to make and receive calls across 50 countries, particularly emerging markets. (An iPhone client is under development). The Nimbuzz “play” is to get mass distribution going, and maybe partner with a few mobile networks as a semi-white-label solution to drive data traffic. By aiming at mobile, Nimbuzz will attempt to get an early lead in emerging markets where PCs are just too expensive for most people.

Nimbuzz is targetting mobile users and online communities with “free calls, chat and more.” So: free mobile VoIP calling (excluding data charges), conference calling, instant messaging, chat and group chat, and photo and file sending across multiple IM communities, including Skype, MSN, Google Talk, Yahoo!, AIM, Jabber and ICQ, plus 23 social networks, including Facebook and Myspace. It has a widget and a Facebook app (due to launch) to handle those. Social networks will be key to Nimbuzz for distribution.

The new Nimbuzz mobile VoIP application works on Nokia Symbian Series 60 devices when connected using a 3G or Wifi network (Windows Mobile in June). Like the Skype beta client, voice calls get routed over the mobile network, not as true VOIP calls. However, there is an option to make the call as an Internet Call, if you have a VOIP provider.

Over the past two years about a dozen startups have started to offer IM to VoIP over mobile to take advantage of increasing flatrate data plans. They include Mig33 (which also offers IM photo sharing, VoIP and social networking features), Fring and Truphone.

Nimbuzz is funded to the tune of $10 million by Mangrove Capital Partners (the original Skype investor), Naspers/MIH (investors in Tencent, Mail.ru, Gadu-Gadu, Mweb, Sanook, Tradus) and Holtzbrinck (StudiVZ in Germany). Its likely to launch on StudiVZ as a result. It claims to have 500,000 registered users since the beta launched.

It was founded by two Dutch mobile veterans Evert Jaap Lugt (formerley KPN), CEO, and COO Martin Smink and includes Tariq Dag Steinberg Khan, the London-based Chief Marketing Officer who was an Stepstone and, back in the day, Firefly.

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