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December 3, 2005

Skype 2.0 beta rolls out video calling

Ed Oswald at BetaNews:

Skype on Thursday launched a beta of the second major revision to its popular PC calling software, adding video support and announcing partnerships with Logitech, Creative and Web log software maker Six Apart.

Logitech will bundle Skype with some of its webcams; Creative has a webcam, microphone, and Skype bundle; Sixapart is promoting Skype and offering special Skype features in its TypePad weblog service. Besides the video,

Other features of the Skype 2.0 beta include a simplified user interface; a self-expression feature that allows the user to communicate whether they are happy, sad, available to talk or do not want to be disturbed; personalization features; as well as integration with Microsoft Outlook through an an optional toolbar.

Of course, the best part is that it’s still free for Skype to Skype calls, video or not. You can download the Skype 2.0 beta here. While it’s for Windows XP only so far, the current production (non-video) version is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Pocket PC.

If you don’t have a microphone or headset/speakers, you can run on down to RadioShack where the promised Skype Trial Kit is now on sale for $4.99 for which you’ll get a headset and 30 free minutes of “SkypeOut” calls to regular phones. They also have Skype compatible internet phones and fancier headsets, and I’m sure they wouldn’t be put out at selling a webcam too so you can try the video version.

But how well does the new version work? Walter J. Mossberg reviews the Skype 2.0 beta at the Wall Street Journal:

I’ve been testing Skype 2.0, along with the new, cheap, Skype-branded microphones and a new Skype-compatible phone that frees users from sitting in front of a computer while talking. Despite some flaws, this new combination of hardware and software generally worked well, and I believe it stands a chance of propelling Skype into the mainstream.

All my test calls were very clear, though in most cases there was a slight problem in the first few seconds, when callers couldn’t hear me. In a couple of cases, the sound dropped out briefly during a call. And Skype disconnected my call to Berlin in the middle, forcing me to redial. Still, as a tradeoff for free calls, the glitches were tolerable.

I used a variety of microphones, built-in and added-on, cheap and expensive. In general, the built-in and costlier add-on mikes worked best. Skype’s new cheap mike, which comes with an earbud as part of a $4.99 Skype “starter pack” available at RadioShack stores, was a little muffled unless I held it close to my mouth.

I also made a few video calls, using a Logitech Web camera. These worked fine, though they displayed the graininess that marks most Web video calling. An audio conference call also worked well, though you can’t use video if you’re calling more than one person. Skype also offers a conventional text-based chat system and a feature for transferring files. I tested both, and they worked fine.

More by following the link where you’ll see he was most impressed by the Linksys CIT200 VoIP cordless phone which I have mentioned here previously.

Posted at 6:19 pm. Filed under Companies, Internet, Linksys, RadioShack, Skype, VoIP

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