As many of you know, last week Google announced free phone calls to “real phones”, not just PC to PC calls , using Gmail as the launch platform. After kicking the tires on this new Google service, I came away very impressed.
The buzz, all this week, on this new offering from Google, seemed to center around the (negative) impact on Skype, the granddaddy of “free” communication applications. Personally, I don’t buy into the negative impact view.
If the installed application base means anything, and it does, then Skype, with its 560 million registered users, versus Gmail’s 200 million users (of which only a small percentage have signed up for the new service), would have to commit a series of critical blunders to lose market position.
We’ve seen market leaders stumble and fall in the past of course, but Skype has always been highly proactive to changing market conditions. In the past few days, for example, Skype has released version 5.0 Beta 2 for Windows which includes the following new features.
New in version 5.0 Beta 2:
10-way group video calling – Making a 10-way group video call requires a very fast computer, the minimum system requirements for is Intel Core2duo 2 GHz CPU or equivalent, the recommended CPU is Intel i7.
Skype Home experience – Skype Home is a new area in Skype which provides relevant updates for you, including information about your purchases, your friends’ mood message updates, and videos to help new users get started with Skype.
Offline instant messaging – You can send and receive messages from your friends who are offline at the moment. The messages will be delivered at the moment when the other party or you will sign in to Skype, even if your friend is not online anymore.
New contact search and add experience
Enhanced call experience under problematic conditions – Built in client messaging which informs you about potential issues with the call and what to do to improve your call quality.
Post call experience
General User Interface refresh – Numerous updates to Skype’s left side screen there is a new profile and mood message entrance area as part of Skype Home
Regular users are familiar with the following standard features.
Improved sound quality over regular telephones.
Secure end-to-end encryption.
Uses peer-to-peer technology for even more enhanced security.
Video calling – I have to admit I find this feature invaluable.
Conference calling – a very cool feature.
Online status notification – online, away, do not disturb, invisible, offline.
Contact creation, including groups, and importation from MS Outlook and Outlook Express etc.
Screen sharing – I find a lot of uses for this feature.
Chat – I find this a great help for sharing URL’s which can then be opened during a video call to facilitate the sharing of information.
In its basic form, Skype is a free communication package, using proprietary code, which allows users to make free computer to computer calls, including video calls. I use the Skype video calling feature dozens of times a day to speak with contacts worldwide.
As well, there are a bundle of additional features, that can be purchased at a low cost, which will expand the application’s functionality.
Available Upgrade features:
Call phones and mobiles
Receive calls from phones and mobiles with an online number
Voicemail – Send and receive voicemails
Forward calls to phones
Transfer calls to phones and mobiles
Windows XP, Vista or 7
Sound input and output devices – microphone and speakers, or a headset. Of course, for video calling you’ll need a webcam.
Download at: Skype
Note: beta versions are still a work in progress, so you might find the odd bug.
I’ll continue to use both Skype and Google Voice as complimentary applications (not competitive applications), since each applications excels in areas that are not necessarily crossovers.
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