Caution: Skype 4.0 for Wiindows Beta 1 is about improving the User Interface but it is not a replacement for your ongoing Skype conversations on your primary PC and should only be used on a secondary PC to provide user feedback.
While over the years, over 300 million have figured out how to download and install Skype, it’s become apparent that, in the end, it’s the user experience that will drive more massive Skype adoption. Finding those initial contacts, getting the speaker/mic working properly, ensuring you have a good Internet connection and determining what hardware is optimal for a good Skype experience is all part of Skype’s ongoing research and development. And perhaps the most important of these is having a user interface that “delights the user”. Certainly new Skype President Josh Silverman has indicated this as a primary goal for Skype.
In working towards this end Skype has made available an early beta version of Skype 4.0 for Windows with the primary goal of making Skype easier:
- for new users who are just starting up with Skype
- for ongoing users to manage, archive and recall their Skype conversations
- to improve the quality of certain aspects of conversations but especially with how video is displayed during video calls.
Check out the videos provided by Skype that Phil has posted to get a more dynamic overview. A key to understanding release 1 of the Skype 4.0 beta is that its development is at a stage where the Skype product team needs some outside user feedback. As a result they expect the Skype 4.0 beta activity to last through the summer prior to releasing for general use in, say, September, 2008 (a speculative release date, not an official one).
On the other hand at this stage it is an EARLY beta and is missing some features available in the current Skype 3.8 for Windows client. As a result I recommend that you only try it on a secondary PC while keeping Skype 3.8 on your primary PC used for Skype conversations, especially if Skype is mission critical to your conversations. From Product Manager Mike Bartlett’s post today:
We’re sharing this beta with you a little earlier than normal because we know it’s a big change, and sometimes change can take some getting used to. We’re going to spend the whole summer listening to your feedback and making changes so that when we do launch the final version, we’ll make sure it’s perfect. Because we’re releasing it early, a few little things aren’t available in today’s beta: full history and contact groups are two examples.
I can add Call Transfer and PayPal integration as two more 3.8 features missing from this Beta 1. Check out the full Release Notes, identifying the missing features. Via a “Contact Customer Support” Help menu item you can provide your feedback where they’re specifically requesting your “comment, feedback or frustration”.
If you’re into beta testing; if you have a secondary or back-up PC on which you can try this out, give it a try (download here). There is going to be a learning curve to get familiar with the new interface — keep in mind that, with Skype 4.0, it’s more about the user experience than the technology (although technology performance bugs should also be reported). As the beta releases progress we’ll advise you when it’s ready to try out as your primary Skype client. And, as we get more experience with it, we’ll be posting our comments.
Around the blogosphere:
Andy Abramson: VoIP Watch: Skype 4.0 Beta Comes To Life
As a basis for making new revenue, it shows me that Skype is looking beyond just selling cheap minutes. For now think of 4.0 as a canvas, that’s only been outlined. The real version is weeks away and likely will incorporate more feedback from users.
Om Malik: GigaOm: Video Makes Skype 4.0 Grow Bigger, Wider
The real reason for the redesign, however, is Skype Video, which desperately needed a new layout because it requires an ease-of-use that eludes the current client. As I pointed out a few weeks ago, video communication (which accounts for about 28 percent of total Skype calls) has been one of the fastest-growing features on Skype, thanks to the easy availability of built-in cameras, especially in devices used by mobile workers.
Dan York: Disruptive Telephony: Skype 4.0 seriously disrupts the Skype UI – is this a good thing? Dan hits on the core of this beta program:
I’ll also be curious to see how well Skype balances “simplifying” the user experience for new users while maintaining the functionality that “power users” have come to expect. It’s a tough balancing act and it will be interesting to see how Skype does.
New York Times: A Redesign at Skype (registration required)
Sten Tamkivi: siekatsu: Skype 4.0 beta 1 is out! (Full disclosure: Sten is Skype’s General Manager of its Estonia operations which includes the Skype development teams.)