As expected, Facebook today finally announced one of its most long-awaited features– the ability to video chat with your Facebook friends. Powered by Skype and starting today, you’ll be able to easily video chat with any of your Facebook friends just by clicking on the video camera icon in the normal chat window. That’s it and it works in all the major browsers— Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari– on Mac or Windows, so no matter what you use you should have no problem video chatting (and like Skype on the computer, if you don’t have a webcam you can still see and hear the other person but they can only hear you). Done with the chat? Just close the video and you’re done.
And like regular Skype you can also leave video messages for a friend if they’re not online (like a private version of posting a video message on their wall which is open for all of their friends to see), and you can also now call or chat with your Facebook friends right from an updated Skype app (available for Windows users here).
The new Facebook group chat
Facebook also today introduced two other updates to Chat– a better, more organized Friends list that has a sidebar for easy access to the friends you message most, and the ability to easily group chat with multiple friends (again, just by clicking the “add friends to chat” icon in the normal chat window).
Yes all this isn’t “groundbreaking” by any stretch, but the fact that it is such an easy and simple way to make an already very good instant messaging system better does in our opinion make it awesome.
While this deal isn’t as mind-blowing as AT&T planning to buy T-Mobile, it’s still pretty insane. What you’ve read above in the title is correct– Microsoft has just bought Skype for a crazy $8.5 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “B”). With the amount of people who use Skype constantly it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out just how huge this deal could be on a whole bunch of levels, but let’s focus on what you really care about: what exactly this all means for you.
On The Microsoft Side
It seems that every big company has their own video chatting service– Apple has FaceTime, Google has Google Talk, and even Microsoft has had one with Windows Live Messenger– with all these companies investing a whole lot to make sure that when you and your friends video chat it’s on their service. This Skype deal will give Microsoft a significant advantage in this game. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft announce a whole bunch of new Skype apps for Windows Phone 7 (which was already said to be getting a Skype app pretty soon) and Xbox 360 Kinect that makes video chatting from your phone or couch a whole lot easier and better (and yes we know that means that Microsoft will need some new Windows Phone 7 phones with front cameras for video chatting– they also announced yesterday that the next version of Windows Phone 7 will be shown off at the end of the month, and we expect more on this there).
This is great news for anyone with a Kinect or wants a Windows Phone.
For Mac, Android, iPhone and Everyone Else
While this looks to be a great move for Microsoft users, the biggest concern with all of this is for anyone using or planning to use Skype on something like Mac OS X, iPhone/iPad/iTouch or Android. If you’re concerned about all of a sudden losing access to Skype (or Qik, which Skype bought a few months back), don’t be. For this Skype deal to be successful Microsoft will want you to be using their service over the competition (FaceTime, Google Talk etc.) particularly when your on a non-Microsoft product. Sure if we had to guess Microsoft will add certain features to the Windows Phone and Windows PC Skypes before making them available on the other platforms, but rest assured– Microsoft has said that they “will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.”
This mobile video chatting game is getting very intense very quickly– and we can’t wait to see what Apple, Google and all the other competitors come up with next to fight off this new powerful MicroSkype. Stay tuned!
Skype video calling– now from your iPhone and iTouch (Pic from Skype)
We’re not gonna lie, we thought it wouldn’t come till at least next week at CES– but, hey, who are we to complain when something awesome happens early! Yes, you read that headline right– Skype video calling from the iPhone 4, 4th gen iPod Touch and iPhone 3GS (though obviously here only using the back camera) is now live— with video calling over WiFi and 3G!
As we wrote last week, you can also grab the update for your camera-less iPad or 3rd gen iPod Touch (running iOS 4.0 or later) and still be able to do one-way video chats with friends using Skype on their phone, PC or Mac– so don’t feel too bad iPad and 3rd gen iTouch owners.
Anyways, back to the app. In our brief hands-on with the updated app we found it worked really well. Video quality over 3G and WiFi from our iPhone 4 to our PC was very good— not perfect but very, very good (particularly for a phone), with sound coming in fine as well. There didn’t even seem to be too much of a lag between what we were doing and what was showing up on our PC, and you can even share a screen from a PC/Mac to the iPhone. One downside we noticed so far: multitasking while video chatting. If you leave the video chat while it’s going on– say, to look something up on Safari or respond to a text– the video on your end freezes to how you were when you tapped that Home button. The conversation still goes on through audio like it would on any call so you’re not dropping the connection– and the video quickly picked up when we came back to the app– but this could still be a little annoying for some. Oh, and constant use of this will also probably kill your battery life really quickly.
All in all, Skype is finally what we all were hoping for once Apple released the iPhone 4 and 4th gen iPod Touch– offering true video chat on the go while raising the bar for Apple if they want Facetime to ever be successful. Let’s just hope Skype next week spreads the mobile video chat love to Android and other mobile OSes.
The new Skype app for iOS is available now for free in the App Store— and make sure to let us know what you think of the new app in the comments.
This has been one of the biggest things anyone with an iPhone 4 or 4th gen iPod Touch have been waiting for– the ability to make video calls from your iDevice to anyone, anywhere on Skype. Today, Engadget got hold of a “Help” document from the Skype site detailing this long-awaited feature, which if we had to guess, we’d probably here a lot more of in the coming weeks at the big CES show in Vegas in 2 weeks.
Now what can we expect in this new app? Well, looking through the now pulled doc.\, we came across this awesome little bit of info:
The quality of the video you send and receive from your iPhone will depend upon the quality and bandwidth available on the WiFi or 3G network you are connected to (emphasis ours).
Yes, this is 3G video calling– something Apple’s own Facetime can’t yet do (though Apple did say it was coming in 2011). There also is mention of video chat working on the iDevices that lack front cameras like the iPad, iPhone 3GS (which will use the rear camera) and older 3rd generation iPod Touch as long as they have iOS 4.0 or later– meaning you can even have one way video chats on your older iDevice (which is also quite awesome that they’re spreading the video chat love).
And just one other little rumor to throw out there– could Skype for iPhone video calling have anything to do with Skype and Verizon’s big agreement and a Verizon iPhone being finally on the way? Looking through this doc, I did come across some interesting lines of text–
wapl_referenceKey=SKYPE_FOR_IPHONE&wapl_referenceKeyDesc=Skype Mobile For Verizon
which weren’t on the normal source version of the current Skype page for the iPhone.
Let’s hope all of this is answered soon, but in the meantime check out the doc for yourself here (note: the page is in text as Skype pulled the full-page after it all got leaked. When you web browser asks you what to open the .php file in choose Internet Explorer or other web browser).
At first you might not think so, but this recent announcement at the Mobile World Congress is BIG news. Today, Skype and Verizon announced a new partnership and smartphone app that will allow Verizon users to chat– both through Skype IM AND through calling— to Skype users around the world. The free app, which will come in late March, will be available on the BlackBerry (models Curve 8830, Storm 1 and 2, Tour, Curve 8330 and Curve 8530), as well as the Android-running Motorola Droid, HTC Droid Eris, and the upcoming Motorola Devour (a phone we’ll have more on soon–think of as less powerful Droid with full keyboard and MOTOBLUR).
The name of the app is Skype Mobile and is an “always-on app,” meaning that it will constantly running in the background. Now here’s the big part of this partnership– the calls made on Skype Mobile are made over Verizon 3G data network and will NOT use your minutes. This is huge in multiple ways– 1) for those close to running over minutes and have one of these phones, you can use this to help keep you from running over. 2) Not only do Verizon users have unlimited calling to the 90 million customers on their carrier, but now they now can also call the 500+ million Skype users, even if those users are online internationally!
Now you will need a data plan to use Skype Mobile (though since the application is only for smartphones, and that Verizon requires data plans for all the phones mentioned above, we don’t see this as much of a problem), and yes, AT&T has recently approved a Skype iPhone app that also allows calls over 3G and not just WiFi (which by the way, this app won’t be able to do)– but this is still definitely a big win for Verizon users if for no other reason than that Verizon is finally opening up their network for Skype and hopefully other services in the very near future.