They used to say “here’s my number, give me a call”. Now it’s just “Skype me”. Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the internet. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free, while calls to both traditional landline telephones and mobile phones can be made for a fee using a debit-based user account system. Skype has also become very popular for its additional features, which include instant messaging, file transfer, and videoconferencing. Skype is an example of VoIP (voice over internet protocol) which is set to revolutionise the way we communicate and pay for our voice and video calls to each other.
One of the first names for Skype was ‘Sky peerto- peer’, which was then abbreviated to ‘Skyper’. However, some of the domain names associated with ‘Skyper’ were already taken. So they dropped the ‘r’ – hence ‘Skype’ was born.
Like Google, Facebook and YouTube, Skype seems to be another ‘must have’ internet application. With approximately 600 million Skype accounts it is now the single largest international voice carrier – not bad considering they only got started in late 2003.
Getting Skype is easy enough – just nip onto www.skype.com and download it. Oh, you’d better check you have this first:
• Your PC running Windows 2000, XP, Vista or 7. (Windows 2000 users require DirectX 9.0 for video calls).
• Internet connection – broadband is best.
• Speakers and microphone, built-in or separate – I prefer a combined headset & microphone.
• For voice and video calls I recommend a computer with at least a 1GHz processor, 256 MB RAM and, of course, a webcam.
If you have a Mac you will need:
• Mac computer with G4, G5 or Intel processor, 800 MHz or faster.
• Mac OS X v10.3.9 (Panther) or newer.
In keeping with the trend to converge technologies, Skype is also available on certain mobile phones such as the iPhone and BlackBerry – it seems wrong to call them phones when in fact they are more like computers!
Warning: Skype appear to be departing from their policy of free Skype-to-Skype calls and have announced they will soon be charging ‘a small fee’ for Skype calls from mobile devices. Many may think this could be the thin edge of the wedge!
Soon you will also be able to get Skype on the TV. Now for some, this may of course be a bit much having to ‘park/pause’ watching Coro to receive a Skype video call from a cousin, or maybe worse – having an All Blacks game interrupted by the mother-in-law wanting to chat from her cruise in the Med!
To get Skype on your TV, you’ll need an Internet-connected TV with Skype built in (soon to be released), a special webcam, and a broadband internet connection.
It’s free to make a Skype-to-Skype call and about 1.5cents to non-Skype users, but there is of course internet broadband access fees to be considered. There seems much debate on actually how much bandwidth is actually used when using Skype, but in ways we can all understand, as a guide, 40 hours of Skype calls roughly represents 1Gb of bandwidth.