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Skype: beyond the hype

Apr 28, 20042 mins

* More on testing the Skype VoIP application

Last time we discussed our initial testing with Skype, an Internet-based point-to-point VoIP application. And our initial take was most positive. In fairness, though, we have to point out what we haven’t tested yet.

First, we were using our broadband access, so we haven’t tested this over a dial-up connection. Maybe the quality and delay won’t degrade; we just don’t know yet. In reality, with the proliferation of cable/DSL access for the work-at-home crowd, we don’t see this as a major factor either way. We likewise have not had a chance to try international calls. (Our initial test was between Larry’s office in California and Steve’s in North Carolina.)

We also found that headphones and an attached boom microphone were critical to avoid having predictably unacceptable echo. The application isn’t magic, and it can’t turn a PC speaker and a microphone into a conference-room speakerphone.

We’ve made a few calls, and all had good quality. On one occasion, though, after roughly 45 minutes, the connection dropped. Repeated attempts to reconnect produced strange results, but the problem disappeared once Larry rebooted his PC.

One of the most intriguing capabilities that we want to investigate further is conference calling. Since there were only two of us, it was difficult (to say the least) to test a conference call with three or more parties. That’s on our “to do” list, and we’ll let you know how it works out.

At this point, there is no videoconferencing or application collaboration capability. We’re guessing that might be an add-on in a paid version of the software. There is, however, messaging built into the interface.

In our view, these deficiencies are rather minor. In fact, they’re so minor that we’ve started using Skype as our preferred method to chat with each other.

Next time we’ll share some thoughts on the impact Skype and similar applications may have on corporate telecommunications.