Internet telephony software company Skype is pushing ahead with videoconferencing in a bigger way with the release of version 4.0 for Windows, but the company is yet to standardise its releases for Linux and Mac OS X.
Previous versions of Skype did include videoconferencing, but the latest release integrates “one touch” video calls into the application and sports new codecs to improve sound and video quality.
Skype's Asia Pacific vice president and general manager Dan Neary said 4.0 is not an “incremental” upgrade, but the most significant release of the product since it started.
“We have incorporated feedback from users and designed wizards for microphones and Web cams to make it truly plug-and-play,” Neary said.
“Video is becoming increasingly important for communication and with 4.0 it is easy to launch a Skype call with video on one click.”
In addition, there is now more screen real estate dedicated to video and a full-screen mode.
Skype spent three years developing its new audio codec for version 4.0, which Neary said is better quality, more efficient and requires less processing power than the codec shipped with previous versions.
“With 4.0 it's the same quality sound at 50 percent of the bandwidth,” he said, adding there is also a “super wide” bandwidth codec for even better sound across fast Internet links.
Skype already runs on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and mobile phones, and has committed to porting to Google's Android and the iPhone, but what is unclear is if or when the Linux port will be on par with its Windows counterpart.
According to the Skype Linux blog there is work underway to adopt some of the user interface improvements from Skype 4.0 for Windows and the developer are considering adding the full-screen default view.
While there is still no support for 64-bit Linux, Skype hopes to add this during 2009.
“We've expanded our Linux team by hiring more skilled Linux/Qt developers, and we have more Linux vacancies to fill during the first few months of this year,” according to Skype.
The latest Mac OS X version is 2.8 and while that includes functionality not present in the Windows version, like screen sharing, is also now languishing behind Skype's 4.0 technology.
Skype's head of corporate communications for Asia Pacific, Eunice Lim, said features in the Mac OS X version may find their way into the Windows 4.0 release later this year.
Likewise, Skype's business ambitions are continuing with the anticipation 4.0 will help garner more of the business telephony market.
Neary said more business features will also find their way into the 4.0 release.
One notable Skype business user is surfwear company Rip Curl.
Skype 4.0 for Windows is available globally from Skype's Web site from February 3, 2009 UK time.