This week VOIP provider Skype announced a new free phone to be available in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere (not yet the U.S.). Meanwhile, Google is hard at work on its own open software platform for mobile phones (code named Android) likely to be available soon. It is reported that the Google standard platform will be made available to anyone who joins their Open Handset Alliance. This means you aren’t necessarily locked into the features that come with a phone, but can download any number of new features and even develop your own. Apple will be releasing its own freely available developer kit for the iPhone in February next year, which will similarly put more creative license for phone applications out in the public space.

This new trend toward free calling and open applications and features could do for phones what the Internet and sites like Netvibes and Digg have done for news customization. The more we can individually tailor our mobile experience, further enabling the shift from the desktop to mobile devices, the more important such devices will become in determining where we go for information and how it is delivered.

Not only do the Skype and Google phones threaten the walled garden business models of major Telcos, but they also represent a challenge (and an opportunity) for media in the way information is made available moving forward.

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