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Sebastien Provencher points out an interesting new development found on the Skype Blog. The newest version of Skype allows users to search for local businesses and call them at the click of a mouse.

This is a great add-on to Skype’s core product (see above link for screenshots) and should be another compelling reason to sign up for SkypeOut. Currently it’s only $30 for an entire year of domestic outbound calling and a few cents a minute for international calling. The extra step required to go out and buy a headset or computer mic is one of the things that has unfortunately kept Skype languishing in limbo between early adoption and mainstream. This has been a challenge with VoIP adoption  outside of companies like Vonage that let you use your existing phone  since the beginning (see Advisory “VoIP: Calls, Clicks and the New Telephony Infrastructure“).

That should change, however, as Skype continues to expose itself and gain traction by pumping out and integrating new products. Its newly launched online video site Joost, for example, just signed a landmark deal with Viacom to pick up the pieces of all the content the media giant just pulled from YouTube. This left a great void (not voip) where there is considerable demand and now leaves Joost in a nice spot.

This local business search should also be the first step in a product evolution that will take Skype beyond just being a VoIP calling platform. This is the first sign of local search that could lead to a more diversified value proposition and possible ad models around pay-per-call. This new version also experiments with user reviews for local businesses, something that continues to get a great deal of attention for its value-generating potential (and many challenges).

Given its worldwide installed base and this continued innovation, Skype will be a company to watch.

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