Skype has always been an important part of my digital research toolbox, but the recent updates give it even more value – both as a research tool and for staying connected with distant family. Skype 5.0 beta has been released for Mac users giving us the ability to have group video calls too. The Windows 5.0 beta was released several weeks ago so we can all enjoy this new capability just in time for the holidays.
Both versions have an integrated interface – everything now happens in one window. Windows users can view their Facebook news feeds inside the Skype interface and even initiate calls with their Facebook friends. We Mac folks don’t have that ability, and no one has said if we ever will. Still, this new version has much to enjoy.
Moving forward, Skype is looking to become a profitable business. As a result, they are expanding their Skype Out capability where you can call land and mobile lines using Skype. For $3.00/month, U.S. users get unlimited calling anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. Now that Skype works on iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Symbian smart phones, this can be a very economical way to stay in touch. I’ve used this for some time on my desktop and found it quite handy.
It does look like they plan to make the group video calls some kind of fee-based plan. From my experience, I’m guessing it will be very affordable.
I’m waiting to see what Apple’s iOS 4.2 upgrade brings for Skype on the iPad. You can use the iPhone app now, but without multi-tasking you can’t receive calls unless the app is running. With the iOS upgrade, it will run in the background and we won’t miss calls because we’re reading the paper. And, although the iPad doesn’t have a camera, I’m looking forward to a Skype app designed just for the iPad as well as other apps – Meeting Manager Pro immediately comes to mind – that integrate Skype’s functionality.
Skype continues to innovate and this new beta shows there’s much more to enjoy with their service. Now it’s our turn to find new and fun ways to put it to good use.
Oh, did I mention that Skype is also coming to your tv? Oh, Santa . . .