French startup lets you call people on Skype without needing Skype

Now here’s something amazing. French telecoms startup Manifone has launched a service that lets you call Skype contacts directly, from any fixed line or mobile phone, with no Skype account, additional software, PC or handset required. They claim their Mani-Sky VoIP service is a first in the telecommunications industry, and by golly, I think they may be right.

Mani-Sky assigns alias telephone numbers, which they call ‘direct numbers’, to Skype contacts; these can be saved to your phone memory and called the usual way, at the price of a local call.   The catch is that it’s only the first three minutes of the call that are free.

Beyond that, the company’s business model kicks in; anyone wishing to place longer calls can opt for a six-month subscription that offers unlimited calls to Skype for $10. The company makes its money on the parts of the calls that are switched between fixed line and IP networks. Manifone is offering Mani-Sky free to all users in the 11 supported countries in Europe and North America for a promotional period.

On the face of it, the service is not all that different from SkypeIn or Jajah.Direct – the primary differentiator is that it opens up Skype, which, let’s face it, is still the market-leading VoIP service, in a way that Skype itself has yet to achieve.