Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Skype Redesigns for Better Video Communications, 4.0 Beta 1 for Windows Only

Many blogs and news outlets are reporting on the new 4.0 beta version of Skype, the ubiquitous peer-to-peer voice and video over IP software client. I rarely use it for voice calls and primarily use it as a videoconferencing tool on both Windows and Mac platforms. While the Windows version was full of of add-ons and plug ins -- for me it got bogged down with so many options and tabs that the actual video window was hidden and I was left searching for it during a video call. The Mac OS version is completely stripped down in comparison and seems to be intuitively designed for video communications. Om Malik has a good review of the new version which is available as a Windows-only update so Mac users (like Om and me) are left out on this one.

The demo here by Director of Windows Product Management Mike Bartlett demonstrates some of the new social features of the 4.0 beta. On the Skype blog Bartlett says this about the update,
"A while ago we realised we had outgrown our home. There was so much to pack in, and Skype got a bit crowded. We learnt that people new to Skype had so much choice, they didn't always know where to start or how to find things. So we decided to move into a bigger, better home. Skype 4.0 Beta 1 for Windows...

... So what's new then? We've given video calling the screen size it finally deserves, plus we've made it really simple to use. A single click on the Video call button and you'll be seeing and talking. Video doesn't start off really small anymore - it's big and beautiful to begin with. You can also resize and move your own video window around the screen quite easily. Plus in one click, you can have an IM conversation alongside the video call."

Skype 4.0 Beta - Advanced Demo
by SkypeConversations

Another new feature is that it detects and remembers recommended hardware and troubleshoots problems related to headsets. I haven't had a chance to test it out yet but I've read some mixed reviews from people who love it and hate it and most objecting to the full screen video. Bartlett has been moderating the comments on the Skype and said,
"I assure all of you that we are listening, although it would be great if you could leave you feedback via - I assure you we will be making changes based on the feedback we receive."
I keep in mind that that Skype is free and whether a Mac OS version is available in the future or not I'll keep on Skyping.