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Skype Says It Will Link To Regular Phones

MARKHAM, Ontario (AP) -- The peer-to-peer phone program Skype, which allows computer users to talk to each other globally for free, will soon be expanded to include a paid service that will connect Skype calls to regular phones, the program's co-creator said Wednesday.

Skype Technologies SA founder Niklas Zennstrom, who also co-developed the Internet file-sharing program Kazaa, made the announcement at the VON (Voice on the Net) Internet-phone conference Wednesday in Markham, north of Toronto.

He said final bugs were being worked out of the Skype software's "beta" or trial version, which already has at least 5.5 million users worldwide. An official release is scheduled for the summer.

"Today it's the fastest-growing Internet software ever, much faster than Kazaa,'' Zennstrom said.

Zennstrom, who at 37 resembles a younger Bill Gates with drip dry hair, spectacles, pressed shirt, and blue blazer, appears out to undermine telephone companies in the same way Kazaa skewered record labels, but he's not facing the same legal hurdles that forced him to sell Kazaa in 2002.

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