Skype 5.0 for Windows integrates with Facebook, letting users call Facebook friends and vice versa. Users who upgrade will also be able to participate in a free trial of Skype's group video-conferencing service. Skype is also mobile on Android, iOS and Symbian, and adding Facebook friends could significantly add to Skype's subscriber numbers.
Skype has updated its Internet calling software for Windows machines to version 5.0, which gives users the ability to keep track of Facebook friends and communities from within the application. The new release also lets Skype users participate in a free trial of the service provider's group video -conferencing service, which automatically switches the video focus to the person speaking on a call.
According to Skype, video calling accounted for about 40 percent of all Skype-to-Skype minutes in the first half of 2010. "Group video calling is a beta feature, which means it is still a work in progress -- but please go ahead and try it," the Skype team advised in a blog. "Click on a contact, add more people to the conversation , click the video call button, and select 'get group video' from the pop-up message."
Encouraging Quick Adoption
With Skype 5.0, users can directly access their Facebook phone books to call Facebook friends with mobile phones and landlines. Facebook friends that are also Skype contacts can initiate free Skype-to-Skype calls. Moreover, Skype users will be able to send SMS messages to Facebook friends as well as comment on and 'like' wall posts, just as they can do in Facebook itself.
Even better, with Skype 5.0, users will be able to exchange IM messages with friends who are offline. The messages will be delivered the next time the friend signs in to Skype. However, the new group video calling and offline IM features are only available when all participants are using Skype 5.0, which is why Skype is urging users to quickly adopt the new release.
Facebook integration is just the latest Skype move to make the Internet-based calling service ubiquitous across the electronic gadget universe. Earlier this month, the free software provider launched Skype for Android version 2.1 or above.
"With the addition of Android, we are pleased that Skype is now available on three of the most popular mobile platforms today: Android, iOS and Symbian," said Mark Douglas, Skype's Android product manager.
Skype's goal of making its app even more social is another indication that the software provider is attempting to grow its customer base. Tapping just a fraction of Facebook's estimated 500 million members would significantly add to Skype's subscriber numbers.
Unified Communications RIP?
Available in beta since May, Skype 5.0 automatically evaluates audio and video quality during calls and provides users with guidance on improving the call experience as well as resolving problems. What's more, the latest Skype release incorporates a new automatic call-recovery feature to quickly reconnect calls interrupted by Internet problems.
Skype's refreshed software demonstrates that the once highly touted field of unified communications (UC) could eventually become extinct. The leading edge of communications and collaboration is driven by companies like Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Fring, Nimbuzz and dozens more, noted Gartner analyst Tim Jones."These are better, cheaper and more fashionable than UC, and there is no way the so-called 'enterprise' vendors can keep up with their rate of evolution," Jones wrote in a September blog. "For example, in Cape Town I met someone" last month "who threw out Microsoft, adopted Skype instead, and saved a fortune."