For many years, unified chat clients like Digsby or Adium have provided users with a single app with which to manage several chat protocols at once. Whether your friends are on AIM, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, or Facebook Chat, chances are there's an app that will aggregate your various buddy lists into one tidy window. Skype, however, has remained on its own outside of these clients, but thanks to the forthcoming SkypeKit SDK, the popular voice and video chat app will soon be integrated into other applications.

This morning, Skype announced a beta program for use of its brand new SkypeKit SDK which will allow developers and manufacturers to incorporate Skype into both desktop applications and consumer electronics devices. The SDK will be initially invite only, launching on Linux for devices tomorrow, and on Mac and Windows for desktop apps in a few weeks.

"Think of SkypeKit as a 'headless' version of Skype - that is, a Skype client with no user interface that runs invisibly, not only on PCs, but also TVs, notebooks, and other connected devices."
- Skype
Previously, Skype's API allowed accessories like headsets and webcams to communicate better with Skype, but those applications required Skype to run in the background. With this new SDK, apps can be built that run independently of Skype, much like the popular multi-platform chat clients available today.

"Think of SkypeKit as a 'headless' version of Skype - that is, a Skype client with no user interface that runs invisibly, not only on PCs, but also TVs, notebooks, and other connected devices," the company said in a blog Tuesday morning. "Developers communicate with SkypeKit through the SkypeKit API, surfacing Skype calls through their own applications."

What About Mobile? What About the Web?

The new SDK is only open for desktop app development and for integration by consumer hardware manufacturers. Skype says they are aware of demand for an SDK for Web developers, but has "nothing to announce at this time." As far as mobile goes, smartphone users can already download official Skype apps, but mobile chat clients may be left out of the development fun until the SDK is expanded.

It seems likely that Skype will make its SDK available on Web and mobile platforms eventually, since the company's idea is "that every connected device can become a communications device, with the addition of SkypeKit." For now, desktop developers and hardware manufacturers have the chance to create some interesting Skype integrations with the new SDK.