One of the early treats of Macworld this year is the release of a new Skype beta which boasts some big improvements over the existing stable release. The beta was demoed during ShowStoppers yesterday at the Macworld trade show, and released today for public download. Among […]

One of the early treats of Macworld this year is the release of a new Skype beta which boasts some big improvements over the existing stable release. The beta was demoed during ShowStoppers yesterday at the Macworld trade show, and released today for public download. Among the improvements it brings are a few entirely new features, which, for now at least, can be found exclusively on the Mac platform.

As is usually the case, this latest update brings improvements in audio and video call quality as well. I found that incoming audio was definitely improved, and outgoing seemed to be better as well, although it was hard to tell because I was using my MacBook’s built-in microphone, which probably wouldn’t show as significant gains as, say, a high quality USB mic. Likewise, video did seem improved, but it was hard to tell how much using my MacBook’s internal iSight cam.

The big news about the beta are the new features introduced. Screen Sharing is one such feature. iChat users will be familiar with it, but Skype’s implementation does feature some interesting differences. For one, you don’t replace the other user’s screen with your own. Instead, it replaces your video feed. This means you can share with users on other platforms, although they can’t show you their desktops as of yet. You can also opt to show either your full screen or just a portion. This is obviously a great tool for people doing tech support or tech demonstrations, and just plain cool for those of us who like showing off.

Another new feature is Skype Access, which enables another way to use Skype when you’re out and about. Specifically, it allows you to connect at any Boingo Wi-Fi hotspot, directly through Skype, in order to make calls. Since it’s a Skype only connection, you won’t be charged the normal Boingo rate. Instead, you’ll be charged on a per minute basis for calls, the cost of which (around 20 cents a minute) will come out of your balance of Skype credit. Since Boingo has over 100,000 hotspots in the U.S., that’s a significant extension of Skype’s operating capability.

The last big new feature is Mood Message Chat, which keen users will immediately recognize as a built-in Twitter-type client. Just like with Twitter, users can post their mood messages in a chat window interface and see the messages of their friends as they update in the same window. Of course, not everyone is using mood messages as though it were Twitter, so it can be aggravating to see clutter like iTunes tracks clogging up the stream. Luckily, you can choose not to follow specific contacts just by right-clicking on their name and deselecting the follow option.

There are other new goodies like chat prioritization and contact notes, and in general the 2.8 beta seems to just be better overall than 2.7. Plus, you’ll be able to gloat to your Windows and Linux friends for a little while longer that your Skype is better than theirs, so that’s reason enough to go download it.

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  1. Jan 6: What’s Hot on The GigaOM Network Tuesday, January 6, 2009

    [...] Adobe marches into your TV. [NewTeeVee] Scan and turn books into audio files. [jkOnTheRun] Skype 2.8 Beta Goes Live. It is Good. [theAppleBlog] Smart grid could create 280,000 smart jobs. [...]

  2. Skype Access Makes It Easy To Go Boingo Thursday, January 22, 2009

    [...] Om Malik | Friday, January 9, 2009 | 8:14 AM PT | 3 comments Skype, which has a long standing relationship with Boingo, is making it simpler (and easier) to get access to Boingo hotspots around the world. It announced a new plan that allows Skype users to pay for Boingo Wi-Fi hotspots using Skype Credit. The feature is called Skype Access and is currently available to Mac users as part of the Skype for Mac 2.8 Beta software. I upgraded just for this feature alone. Skype will support this on Windows and Linux versions of Skype later. You pay per minute for the access you use. Previously, you had to sign up for Boingo and got a special rate for using Skype. I thought it was a bad deal. I find Skype Access simpler and easier. (Related Post: Full review of Skype 2.8 for Mac on TheAppleBlog.) [...]

  3. Skype for Windows Beta Gains Screen Sharing Monday, June 1, 2009

    [...] some screen-sharing action on your Windows PC, go have a look-see at Skype 4.1. Version 2.8 for Mac already had the screen-sharing option, so this is new for the PC. Now you won’t be able to remotely interact with a fellow Skyper [...]

  4. The calls keep getting dropped in Skype. And then it shows the other user as being offline or ‘call refused’. This did not happen on the earlier skype. And the incoming video quality seems to have reduced slightly as it appears more ‘pixelated’.

  5. The Skype I´d it just vanished and now I´m looking for a better one for Mac as it seems as there are not many functions as in Windows!

    why is that?

    Besides!..the credit I buy now doesn´t last much as the calls cost 4 times as much as they used to!

    I keep on buying a new credit and the phone local calls are even more expensive that the Mobile calls …how is that?

    Where can I find the local prices fro Sweden…there must be something wrong somewhere!

  6. Why No Love for Mac, Skype?: Apple « Friday, October 15, 2010

    [...] ahead of Windows folks. We got screen sharing and cheap Boingo Wi-Fi access before anyone else with Skype 2.8 in January 2010. Windows wouldn’t get those features until May. Thanks [...]

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