At MacWorld’s Showstoppers event this evening Skype announced Skype for Mac 2.8 beta, with two major new features as well as several minor ones.
The most impressive feature is a form of basic screen sharing. Either a segment of your screen or the full screen is converted into a virtual webcam such that the screen can be viewed in any Skype client via the Skype video channel. While only a Mac can currently be a source for this screen sharing it can be viewed on any Windows, Mac or Linux client as video.
Skype for Mac’s screen sharing feature is sufficient to support discussion issues as a complement to a voice and/or chat conversation; it is NOT by any means a replacement for fully featured desktop or application sharing offerings such as Yugma, Inner Pass or IBM’s Lotus Sametime Unyte. It’s “just” screen sharing. In fact, it is one of two options on the Skype for Mac’s “Share” button, the other being file sharing/transfer.
Below is an example of a full screen image of a shared MacBook screen as seen in a detached Skype video window on my Windows laptop.
The second major feature, Skype Access, provides WiFi access for your MacBook or MacBook Pro via any Boingo access point. While I’m told it has been tested at many of the over 100,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide, I could not get it to work at a local Canadian Starbucks listed as a Boingo hotspot location. But then, this is still beta (and the problem may be with Boingo’s interface with Bell Mobility). ([Update: on a March 19 visit to the same Starbucks, Skype Access worked with no problems.]
More importantly is to look at the “use case” for Skype Access. Cost for using Skype Access over Boingo is US$0.22/€0.16/C$0.23 per minute using Skype credits.
Within a user’s home country, Skype Access is probably more expensive than local alternatives; this is certainly the case in Canada. However, I can see the value if I am outside the home country and wanting to make Skype/SkypeOut calls, check email or do some web browsing at airports, restaurants, coffee shops and other Boingo hotspots as an alternative to much higher cost roaming wireless calls (for instance roaming U.S. to Canada on Rogers runs at $1.75 per minute) or $40 per day Internet access charges at some European hotels.
With unlimited use Boingo subscriptions at $21.95/month for North America or $59/month Global, Skype Access is more appropriate for the occasional traveler as opposed to the hardened road warrior.
It reminds me of the use case for PamFax where you can send faxes directly from, say, your hotel room for about $0.20 per page while avoiding a hotel’s much higher $1.00/page charge for faxing. One other common feature between Skype Access and PamFax: both use Skype credits as the primary currency.
Other features in Skype for Mac 2.8 beta:
- Skype for Mac 2.8 continues the use of a “drawer” attached to a Skype chat window; from the list of active chat sessions shown in the drawer you can select which session you want to view. But now there are three levels of prioritization available for those chat sessions. In addition chats can be sorted by name or date/time.
- The process for adding contacts to a chat session now simply involves clicking the “Add a Contact” button and entering the added contact’s name.
- Your Contacts’ Mood Messages can be tracked via a “Mood Message” chat session. While this can currently only be initiated on Skype for Mac 2.8, your mood message chat session will show up as a chat session on, say, a Windows client logged into the same account. Neat for keeping up-to-date on mood message changes, especially when a mood message provides location or reference URL information; it provides a Twitter-like experience.
- Add notes to contacts: when you go into a Contact’s profile there is a separate tab for entering personal notes about that contact.
Dan York, with a lot more Skype for Mac experience than I have had (I just acquired a MacBook ten days ago), has provided a much more detailed review of all the new features He has also produced an excellent You Tube video for his Emerging Tech Talk series:
Skype for Mac 2.8 beta can be downloaded here January 6. Full Release Notes
Skype Posts: Share Skype Blog, Skype Garage Blog
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