Skype launches mobile video calling app

Debut made at Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas

Nearly a year following its launch of HD Video conferencing for TV sets in the living room, Skype has released an iPhone application that can be used to make mobile video calls over both 3G and WiFi networks. The announcement came in advance of this year’s 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) being held this week in Las Vegas.

According to a prepared statement from Neil Stevens, general manager of Skype’s consumer business, video calling represented approximately 40% of all Skype-to-Skype minutes for the first six months of 2010, and “users have been eager to get Skype video calling on their mobile phones.”  He continued, “By bringing video to mainstream users at their home or work via their desktops, on the go with their mobiles, or into their living room via their TV, Skype has made it possible for millions of people to share video moments wherever they are.”

Skype’s announcement noted that the existing Skype for iPhone application was already one of the top five free iPhone apps in 2010 according to Apple.  The new app adds mobile video for Skype users who already have existing features that allow users to make and receive free Skype-to-Skype calls, or to call “offnet” mobile and landline users around the world at very low rates.

The new app is compatible with the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and iPod touch 4th generation with i0S 4.0 or above. Video receiving capabilities are available on the iPod touch 3rd generation and iPad. Calls can be made between devices using the new Skype for iPhone app and desktops including Skype for Windows 4.2 and above, Skype for Mac 2.8 and above, Skype for Linux and ASUS Videophone.

Our observations:  we expect video calling to be popular, although we think it will probably be more popular when callers use a WiFi connection because the WiFi access doesn’t eat up the bandwidth 3G bandwidth quotas imposed by most mobile data service plans.

To get the best quality, Skype’s blog post (which also features a video on the app) http://blogs.skype.com/en/2010/12/iphone_video_calls.html  recommends a strong WiFi connection for video calling.  Therefore, we also suggest that public WiFi hotspot network engineers may need to rethink their capacity and connection speeds (especially the uplink speeds) -- just in case mobile video conferencing really takes off.

Next time, we’ll report in from the floor at CES 2011.

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