The latest version comes with some cleaned up design features, built-in Facebook integration and the group video chat we've watched develop in the beta releases. For Skype, it's improvement all around and all we can say now is that the ball is surely in Facebook's court.
Group Video Chat Goes Live
We got a quick tour of Skype 5.0 and the first thing Rick Osterloh, head of consumer product management, showed off was the group video chat feature. Allowing up to 10 people at once, the chat takes advantage of Skype's high-quality audio and video. It offers some nifty features, like "dynamic view", which highlights the person speaking by enlarging their video feed and shrinking everyone else. While group voice and text chat will be available for free, Skype plans on charging for group video chat in the near future.
A Clean-Cut Interface
The next big feature was the new "Skype Home", which features a cleaned-up contacts list, recent contacts, and the Facebook integration.
As Osterloh called it, it's a "nice central place for users to go." The contacts list now shows users' avatars next to their names and the recent contacts list shows just that, along with recent Skype transactions.
Here Comes Facebook
Now for the Facebook integration - it's basically your Facebook feed pulled directly into Skype. You can "like" things and post comments, but anything beyond that - like viewing profiles, photos or events - opens separately in your browser.
Viewing your Facebook feed in Skype offers another advantage - for friends who include their phone number in their Facebook profile, you will see two buttons. One lets you call either their Skype number or their home/mobile phone, while the other allows you to send an SMS. If they have a Skype account linked to their Facebook account, a "+" will appear, letting you add them as a Skype contact.
Even better than the Facebook feed - because we really don't see ourselves browsing Facebook in Skype - is the importing of your Facebook Phonebook. Suddenly, everyone you know on Facebook that lists a phone number will be easily contactable via Skype.
The Ball's In Facebook's Court
We were really hoping to see Skype integration on the Facebook website. Osterloh told us that they don't have anything to announce there today, but we're hoping to see the vice-versa integration in the near future.
So does this embody the endless potential we wrote about last month? Not really, but it's a decent first step. What we're really hoping to see from this partnership are Skype buttons on Facebook that launch Skype calls and SMS capabilities. Even more, we would love to see a Skype integration in the iPhone and Android apps. Imagine using Skype's background capabilities for ever-present chat and free, quick Skype-to-Skype phone calls connected directly to your Facebook account. What about quick connections from Facebook to businesses as a part of its fledgling Places product?
While the Facebook integration in Skype is nice, it's the other way around that we're really excited to see...so what do you say, Facebook? Will we see on-site voice and video calling? SMS integration?
It would be pretty neat, is all we're saying...
The latest version of Skype is now available for download.