Luxembourg – Skype seems to be making good use of eBay’s money, announcing a new version of the Skype client, new hardware, and even a free conferencing utility that can host up to 100 people. The beta version of Skype 2.5 boasts of easier international dialing, plus SMS and Outlook integration. Skype is also announcing certified phones and webcams made by partner companies.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the version 2.5 beta may be the new Outlook support. Users with Skype’s SkypeOut account – the feature that lets Skype users dial out to regular phone numbers – can now view and call their Outlook contacts from within Skype. SkypeOut users will also be able to send out SMS messages to any mobile phone. International callers won’t have to remember country codes anymore as the software will automatically enter them when a country is selected on the dropdown menu. The new client will also have integrated payment to buy SkypeOut minutes and ringtones.
But enough with the software, already. Skype also announced some Skype “Certified Hardware.” Creative Labs will roll out its Live! Cam Voice webcam, that has a directional microphone and noise cancelling technology. Polycom, the well-known conferencing speaker vendor, will offer a USB speakerphone with echo cancellation. Finally in July, Philips will sell its VOIP321 DECT cordless phone that can make both Skype and regular landline calls.
In addition, Skype looks to compete against online meeting companies like GoToMeeting. The company is now offering a preview of Skypecasts, which lets up to 100 people participate in moderated meetings. Moderators can set up free Skypecasts on the Skype Web site. During the conference, moderators can mute participants and even boot people they don’t like. Skype normally has a 10-user limit which is fine for smaller business, but is not so great for larger organizations.
Last September, eBay purchased Skype for $2.6 billion dollars. Let’s see, we now have integrated payment and conferencing for up to 100 people. Can you say “voice auctions” in the near future?
Skype 2.5 beta is currently available as a free download.