Skype to make U.S. retail debut

Net telephone service Skype Technologies is set to make its first appearance in a U.S. retail store. The Luxembourg-based Net telephony company, founded by the people behind the Kazaa peer-to-peer service, is expected to announce on Monday that it has struck a partnership with consumer electronics chain RadioShack.

More than 3,000 RadioShack locations nationwide on Monday will begin offering the Skype Starter Kit, which includes the software that enables a customer to use Skype's free computer-to-computer telephone service, a headset and 30 minutes of Skype's premium service, with which a user can call a landline or cell phone, company executives said.

The move is an attempt by Skype, the world's largest provider of voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, to introduce its service to mainstream America. Before this deal, U.S. consumers could only get Skype service by downloading the software from the Internet. "Skype has grown rapidly among early adopters, and this partnership with RadioShack will bring Skype to the mass market," said Saul Klein, Skype's vice president of global marketing.

Since launching in 2002, Skype has rattled traditional telephone companies by offering free computer-to-computer VoIP calls and low-cost connectivity between computer and landline or mobile phones. While Skype can boast 66 million registered users and a growth rate of 180,000 new customers per day, the market is still in its infancy, and major conglomerates have begun venturing into the sector.

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