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Summary:

Updated: Skype, the peer-to-peer VoIP provider and a division of eBay, wants to grow up – both as a company and as a communications utility. To that end, it is launching the beta version of its latest Skype client software. Josh Silverman, the company’s new CEO, […]

Updated: Skype, the peer-to-peer VoIP provider and a division of eBay, wants to grow up – both as a company and as a communications utility. To that end, it is launching the beta version of its latest Skype client software.

Josh Silverman, the company’s new CEO, acknowledged that from a usability standpoint, things hadn’t changed much, even as Skype kept adding more features such as embedding third-party plug-ins. Skype needed a better, easier and cleaner client — and Skype 4.0 beta, likely to be available for download tomorrow, is a start. 

The new client is going to cause an uproar amongst many Skype loyalists used to the IM-like nature of the current software. With this version, the software takes up the entire PC desktop screen, mostly to accommodate a growing number of features. (Skype Journal’s Jim Courtney & JKontherun tell me that you can change the screen size, though it isn’t that obvious or easy.) I found it hugely annoying as it forced me to constantly toggle between the client and the desktop; merely doubling or tripling the size of the client seems like it would have sufficed. 

The real reason for the redesign, however, is Skype Video, which desperately needed a new layout because it requires an ease-of-use that eludes the current client. As I pointed out a few weeks ago, video communication (which accounts for about 28 percent of total Skype calls) has been one of the fastest-growing features on Skype, thanks to the easy availability of built-in cameras, especially in devices used by mobile workers.

I often use Skype to conduct calls with my friends around the planet, and occasionally for work as well. As the bandwidth on our broadband connections grows, I think the idea of quick video conversations with friends, family and co-workers will catch on. In this era of rising oil prices and unfriendly skies, it makes sense to simply call someone and see them on computer screen.

But back to the software and my initial impressions (their PR team only sent me the beta download link this morning.) I think after people get over the initial shock related to the bigger size, they will quickly learn to love version 4.0.

I found the improved ability to conduct conversations by consolidating the tabs, which allows you to easily switch between various conversations, especially useful. And initiating a video call is dead simple, almost as simple as Apple’s iChat client.

Skype 4.0 is a much more complete communicator, even despite its beta status. With it, using Skype for instant messaging, making video and voice calls, sending files and sending SMS messages are all easier. I think it’s well worth the download (Available for download tomorrow.) But it’s a shame they don’t have a Mac client — the 4.0 version will initially only be available for Windows-based computers — since Mac is my everyday machine.

The company is also working on introducing features such as auto-redial, call transfer, and most importantly, the ability to send money. I guess they figured out how to integrate eBay’s PayPal with Skype. Now wasn’t that worth spending billions of dollars on?

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  1. Skype Redesigns to Accommodate Video « NewTeeVee Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    [...] Om says over at GigaOM that the new size is “hugely annoying” but he sees the point in that it accommodates video communication, which accounts for 28 percent of total Skype calls and is one of the fastest-growing features on Skype. Continue reading at GigaOM. [...]

  2. Om,

    What’s your thought on Seesmic?

    Skype video conversation does not sound like a good news for friends at Seesmic. Good luck to them.

  3. I don’t see why full-screen could not be optional, just like with any decent application. If it’s the only choice, I am not upgrading – and I won’t be alone.

  4. Skype’s ham-handed 4.0 news embargo — Alec Saunders SquawkBox Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    [...] to “learn about the future of Skype” is tomorrow, June 18, at 12:00 noon.  Apparently, everyone else I know was invited to the cocktail reception before the party, and that’s where the news [...]

  5. When is the mac version going to be available?

  6. Skype 4.0 Beta Released « The Coconut Wireless Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    [...] an early review of the new [...]

  7. Zoli Erdos – of course video size is optional. You can easily toggle between full screen or smaller window that surfaces chat and contact list so you can carry on with different tasks (sending URLs, files etc) at the same time.

  8. Did you compare quality with latest H264/theora Ekiga Builds ? Still SVN though …

  9. Where is My Skype on iPhone? – GigaOM Thursday, September 11, 2008

    [...] job. He goes into the details in a video conversation that we taped and will post later today. We talk about the beta of Skype 4.0, the eBay relationship and the Skype-killer client being plotted by telecom operators amongst [...]

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