3 and Skype announced the Skype phone (sPhone?) today. It is a pretty basic and cheap phone (roughly $100) with a button to open the Skype application. Over 3G, it allows you to call other Skype users and text them.
That's it. Pretty simple. Voice over IP. The carrier gives you the IP. Everything else goes through that, including voice.
How significant is this?
I believe it is a huge step. Yet another one towards the "dumbification" of the carrier's business. That is: just being a carrier. Carrying voice and data, and in the near future... simply data. Because voice is just another data type.
Why is 3 doing it? Because they are not the incumbent and need to deliver new stuff to the market to become appealing.
What about the other carriers? I bet they are panicking. They should not. There is nothing wrong with being a bit pipe. It is the same as being a voice pipe, as they have been up to a few years ago (or today, considering SMS is the only real data service with traction).
They should just focus and do what they did on their voice business. Carry the voice. Who has the most reliable and cheaper network wins. Pretty simple.
Just carry the data. Make it cheaper and reliable. Try to keep the margin up. Who has the most reliable and cheaper network wins. Pretty simple. Forget about value added services. The world is going somewhere else...