Skype Premium upgraded for North American users along with an early summer special offer.
While I did some testing of Skype Group Video (on both Windows and Mac) during its beta period last fall, yesterday I hosted my first “business meeting” Skype Group Video call with a mentoring group in which I participate.They had been using HotConference, a push-to-talk collaboration service where only the speaker is on video, but the service went down in the middle of a weekly conference call. So I created a Group on Skype and launched a Skype Group Video Call.
Most noticeable was that the dynamics of the video conference call changed somewhat:
- Whom we saw: we could see video of each of the participants (except one who had no webcam and one who had Internet connection issues – they were audio only)
- Ad hoc and informal: Anyone could start speaking at any time without the “pregnant pause wait” that is inherent to a push-to-talk service.
- There is a blue halo around anyone who is actually speaking (see Megan in the image below)
- Change video image size: One of the participants wanted to demonstrate his new beach accessory. We could blow his image up to a “full size” while the others remained on the screen in small images (scroll to end to view).
The major feedback from this call – the participants did not realize that Skype Group Video could be so effective and powerful yet so easy to set up. There is definitely a need to generate first-time user experiences; Skype’s challenge remains building market awareness of the effectiveness and power of the group video calling experience.
A seven day trial is available; but somehow its awareness generation needs to go viral. (I do notice that launching skype.com these days does feature Skype Premium on the “Home Page” – at least for U.S. and Canada site visitors but experiencing it in operation is everything.) Certainly one member of that discussion was going to purchase a Skype Premium subscription as a result of this experience.
Where’s the Skype Chat pane?
One feature that gets lost when, on launching a voice or video call, the big black blind comes down to show who is on the call. Any other feature available during the call is left to guess from the icons on the call bar. Yet a complementary live chat session has become critical for any conference call these days, whether voice only or video.
This group missed out on the function of the blue icon third from the right which will open a (Group) Chat text entry pane. The chat session content can be seen by all call participants during and after the call. Several participants on this call were not aware that you could expose the chat session when I wanted to share a URL associated with our discussion. Just reinforcing the point made in my post on this topic yesterday.
One other hint that may encourage trials: while Skype Group video supports up to ten participants on a call, only the host needs to have a Skype Premium subscription. A Skype Premium subscriber may also receive a 1:1 Skype video call from a non-subscriber; the Subscriber can then Add Contacts to the to build up a Skype Group Video call.
Skype Premium Update
Skype Premium has always included Group Video Calling and Live Chat support. Recently Skype announced changes and a special offer (expires July 31, 2011) to its Skype Premium service for North American customers:
- Added unlimited calls to U.S. and Canada if a 3- or 12-month subscription is taken out.
- Offering 50% discount on a 12 month subscription and 25% discount on a 3 month subscription to July 31, 2011.
- 25% discount on a FaceVsion N1 HD video webcam.
Bottom line: at $4.50 per month the incremental cost for Group Video Calling beyond the basic 12 month Unlimited North America Calling Plan Subscription becomes $2.00 per month. While there is no benefit for those of us who already have paid for this calling plan or have a Unlimited World Calling Plan, it may be an incentive to drive the Group Calling user experience by Skype users who have been wary of the $8.99 per month cost. Now they can get to experience the power of Group Video Calling at a very low cost; once experienced they won’t go back.
And here’s the re-configured Group Video Call screen when Kurt demonstrated his beach accessory (Kurt found that a hard floor is not as comfortable as a sandy beach):