Thursday, November 16, 2006

Another Skype virtue: Free video phoning!

All the talk about Skype being blocked, then unblocked, during the past month has opened up the eyes of thousands of new users to the value of this service; and every time I use Skype now I appreciate it more.

Typically, people use Skype for voice communication, but the chat/messenger part of the service is probably the best in its class too (surpassing, in my opinion, MSN), but things really get interesting when you consider the Video Phoning service!

Although I haven't tried it yet, as the service is still being developed and is yet to properly take off in the US, it looks very promising.

Video chat has been around for some time, offered by most instant message/chat services, but Skype does it differently.

Skype's software is a free download; add a Web camera and a reasonably fast broadband connection (ADSL), and you can make video calls for free to any other Skype user.

Apperantly, even when bandwidth drops, or goes week for a short period, you keep the voice channel of your video chat, until the video reappears.

It's not high definition video, in fact, it can be grainy, blurry and slow; but these video chats are good enough for most everyday uses, like actually seeing that family and friends look fine and happy!

The real advantages of Skype over its competitors lie in compatibility, reliability and simplicity.

The software downloaded to run the service works fine on both Macs and PCs. It also provides Linux and Windows Mobile versions, but those are voice- and text-only, without video support.

According to tests by reviewers and bloggers, all versions recognize webcams quite efficiently, then allow video-conferencing between both sides of a call without any further setup. That's simple enough!

By comparison, Yahoo and AOL's instant-messaging software doesn't auto-detect cameras, while Microsoft's Live Messenger fails to sustain more than momentary video chats. Also, the view you get while video chatting is different, it's not full of advertisements, just a simple window listing the people in your address book, plus a separate one for the current call or videoconference Skype's video window will display a thumbnail view of what your own camera sees, which can be enlarged.

The services now free inside the US and Canada, and soon could be free across the world. So how can Skype afford to give away all these services?

First, it's owned by eBay, which brings in enough cash. Second, Skype sells a variety of add-on services, such as international calling (at about 2 cents a minute out of the US) and the ability to receive incoming calls from land-line phones. Third, it doesn't have to run a massive centralized network to orchestrate all this communication. Skype relies on the same peer-to-peer networking technology used to run most file-sharing services. Brilliant.

I have literally 'seen' the future, and it is video telephony driven by Skype!

(Published in The Star)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home