It seems Skype is becoming more omnipresent, more ubiquitous, than ever before. Or at least it seems to be doing a better job in terms of marketing lately -- for example it's not unusual these days to see guest columnists and experts join FOX News live via Skype (News - Alert)from overseas. What's more the company seems to be doing a great job maintaining the quality of its service via its unique proprietary signaling protocol: These live FOX News video interviews via laptop are almost always 'glitch free,' in terms of audio/video quality.
It only makes sense that Skype, a free IP-based global communications service that has been around for about seven years now, would be a beneficiary of the impact of the global recession. Not only is the service extremely popular among people who make frequent international calls, consumers also love it for its free two-way video calls and Web chat as well. What's more, businesses of all types and sizes have seized on Skype to help them hold down communications costs. Of course, users still have to pay for calls from a PC to a landline or cell phone - but the calls are super low cost, and most are calling other users on the network for free.
Skype also continues to innovate, adding valuable new features and capabilities to its service. Today the company announced that it will be launching a public 'beta' of a group video chat function that lets up to five people participate in a video call simultaneously. Initially the service will be offered for free, but Skype will transition it to a paid model when it comes out of beta in about three or four months.
With this move it will be interesting to see whether Skype takes an even bigger chunk of the video conferencing market, which has traditionally been a predominantly paid (and very lucrative) market, but which has seen a flood of new entrants offering free video conferencing (and audio/Web conferencing) services in the past year or so.
According to Skype officials, the new group video chat feature will first be available for Windows, with a Mac version to come later this year.
Skype is also reportedly expanding its monthly subscription offerings to include calls to both cell phones and landlines in more than 170 countries. In addition the company is planning to unveil new subscriptions that let users choose which countries they want to call and whether they want to call landlines and cell phones or just one of the two.
Skype was sold late last year by eBay (News - Alert)Inc. for about $2 billion to an investor group that includes Skype's founders. The company boasts more than 500 million users.
Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard