Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Video Chat Gets Updated, New Windows Versions of Skype and ooVoo are Released

New versions of the free videoconferencing clients are available now. The ever-popular and ubiquitous Skype announced an upgrade to its Windows version last week which followed the recent update to the Mac OS client with version 2.8 which introduced cool new features like screening sharing.

PC Magazine said, "As if to celebrate its fifth birthday, IP telephony service provider Skype recently achieved a milestone of 15 million concurrent users, meaning there are now 405 million skype users across the planet. This figure, they say, is growing by 380,000 every day."

Skype 4.0 - it's all yours - Skype Blogs

From the Skype blog, "For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, this should come as no surprise – the gold version of Skype 4.0 for Windows is now ready to download. It’s an exciting day at Skype – and not just because we’ve also just passed the 16 million online user milestone ;) – as it marks the final stage in a process which has lasted over two years, and incorporated feedback from tens of thousands users like you.

I’m going to keep this brief, as much of the story of 4.0 has been covered in Peter’s previous posts, but even if you stop reading now, this is the bit to remember: the gold version of Skype 4.0 for Windows is now ready, so download it now and share it with your friends, family and colleagues. 4.0 also sports a radically overhauled user interface – a slicker, cleaner look with less clutter and easier-to-find core features. We’ve also included Compact View, which retains the structure of the Skype 3.8 interface for those of you who prefer to work that way."

I had both my mom and father-in-law each update their versions of Skype this past week and they saw noticeable improvement in the video quality and bandwidth management. The only issue we ran into was that when Skype installed the update it rewrote some of the audio settings which ended up disabling my mom's microphone. After about an hour of remote diagnosis of walking her through the various windows, tabs and settings we found the fix under Tools>Settings>Audio Settings>USB Camera Mic which had been changed from the previous version.

Here's more from that post with what's new and improved.
  • Improved video calling – A new built-in bandwidth manager ensures that you have the very best video calling experience possible, even on a low bandwidth connection. If you have a fast enough connection (recommended 400 Kb/s or higher) and a high quality webcam, Skype delivers up to 30-frames-per-second High Quality Video at full screen.
  • Calls and instant messages are easier to manage – video and voice calls, as well as instant messaging, are all easy to reach in a single window. The new Conversations tab makes it easy to hold multiple conversations at once, and to switch quickly between video and voice calls, instant messages and SMS. This is particularly beneficial for the power users among you.
  • Call quality is substantially improved thanks to a number of under-the-hood changes. Calls sound richer and clearer than ever thanks to support for Super Wideband Audio with compatible hardware. The bandwidth manager should ensure that you have crystal clear calls even when bandwidth is low.

ooVoo also updated their multi-party video char software client this week. On the ooVoo blog, Chief Marketing Officer Marty Walker announced the latest update to the Windows client, "A BIG day at ooVoo today as we just launched our new Version 2.0 which is a big leap forward for our product and the video chat/video conferencing category in general. The release continues our focus on high quality video and includes significant audio improvements. But what we’re all REALLY excited about at ooVoo is our “Call Me” link which lets ooVoo users make video calls with anyone they know, even if their friends/family/colleagues/social media friends haven’t downloaded ooVoo. All you have to do is send someone a link, they click on it, and in moments they can join your call in a web browser. How great is that? And it is the same outstanding ooVoo quality. ooVooer’s have a permanent “Call Me” link (like a phone number). Give it out, put it in your email signature (we’ll help you create a button for this), post it on your blog or personal web page and all anyone has to do is click on the link to ooVoo you.


What else is new? Users can now build their own Video Chat Rooms (very easily) and can embed these into their own social network pages or blog. Users want flexibility and the ability to be creative and we are doing our best to deliver what our users want. Lastly, we have published an API for developers to build their own applications with ooVoo. And as we learn more about what the development community wants in high quality video chats we will continue to rollout more API’s."

As David Pouge noted in his NY Times piece, Video Chats Overcome Clunkiness, it's been 45 years since the demonstration of the first video phone at the World's Fair but now years later it's part of our normal way to communicate with family, friends and business associates. Check out his article for more background on how video chat has grown up.