• United States

Skype not just hype

Apr 26, 20042 mins

* Skype performs well during test drive

Now that Skype has been available for about a year, we decided it was time to give it a try. For those who’ve been lost in the Himalayas for the past year, Skype is a “free” point-to-point voice-over-the-Internet application. We put “free” in quotes because, to date, the software is still labeled as a beta version, and the company has not disclosed what the ultimate pricing might be.

Over the years, we’ve never been very impressed with Internet-based PC telephony. It sometimes works, but the quality of the calls usually leaves something to be desired. Nevertheless, our discussion last week concerning ShoreTel’s “hi-fi” telephony jogged our memory that Skype promised “better than corded” sound. So we decided to take it for a test drive.

Downloading and installing the application was painless. But that’s true for most applications. However, the “proof in the pudding” was going to be whether Skype could successfully negotiate our cable/DSL routers and the intrinsic network address translation issues. Every other time we tried a similar application, this is where the process fell apart.

To our amazement, the software not only worked; it worked the first time and the user interface was quite intuitive. Both ends were behind routers, and Larry’s end even was going over his home 802.11 wireless network. The fidelity of the sound was indeed higher fidelity than normal “corded” telephony. And the delay – usually a most annoying factor – was actually less than with a typical cellular phone call.

In spite of a few items that we wished had performed somewhat differently, it’s still two “thumbs up” from our initial testing. Next time we’ll dig a bit more deeply.