Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Skype One Does It Good

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I have just finished testing the new release of Skype version 1.0 and I have to say I am positively impressed.


What I was mostly interested in testing were Skype new critical abilities, namely the integration of the PC-to-phone calling capability and the P2P file transfer capability for capacity for exchanges as large as 2GB.

The SkypeOut service which allows direct dialing of possibly any phone number on the planet is quite simple to setup. You need only to prepay a fixed amount of money (my available options were EU 10, 20 or 50), and then you are immediately set to call any landline or mobile in the world at incredibly low rates.

Let me give you a tangible example. During my testing I called Los Angeles, Toronto/Canada, Romania, and a remote village in Patagonia, in the south part of Argentina, as to have a good representative sample of quality and costs. The most expensive call was the one to Argentina, which for the 23 minutes it lasted, it cost me 0,572 Euros or about 68 cents (US) at today's exchange rate.

Now that's talking!

For people in remote areas or for anyone needing to communicate at a distance, with the computer but with the other end needing to respond through a normal phone, this is an absolutely stunning proposition. You have to test it yourself to believe how good this is.

Quality of communication in the calls was more than acceptable and on my side I had no interruptions or audio drops. I heard no echo, delay or latency as I exchanged with my partners just as if we were on the telephone.

Truly impressive.

My partners at the other end of the conversation had no way or hint that I was calling them through my computer, and in fact did not ask me about my calling technology until I revealed to them that I was not on a traditional telephone.

In a tacit agreement, all they said after each session, was this set of words always in this exact same sequence: Amazing, great, fantastic.

I recall having first enjoyed such exhilarating sensation back in 1998 when utilizing a software called Mediaring, which provided one of the first early systems to call standard phone numbers from any PC. Net2Phone was to appear on the market at roughly the same time, but both suffered from bad usability issues, half-duplex conversations (only one person at a time could talk), reliability issues and costs.

But today, with SkypeOut, reliability, quality of voice, ease of use, and calling rates have made incredible strides making my ability to connect and talk to anyone around the world as easy as 1-2-3.

While I have had frequent problems in achieving fully reliable connections with Skype over long distance connections (meaning audio was not reliable at all times) I have had no problems whatsoever when utilizing the new SkypeOut service.

Usability-wise the tool has great margins for improvement as key tasks still require several commands to be carried out. I look forward to an easy redial button, a way to easily memorize the telephone numbers I dial and to associate them easily with people names, and I dream of a one-click recording button that allows me to digitize any conversation that goes through Skype (obviously while notifying all attendees).

The file transfer facility is relatively easy to use. You need to right-click on anyone person inside the Skype contact list and then select Send File. You are offered a File selection dialog box and then you can simply select the file to send.

Performance of the transfer is dependent on network conditions and on several other factors. File transfers may appear initially to be very slow, but if you keep your voice connection closed I noted great improvements in speed. The transfer speed in my tests varied between a few Kbps to up to 500 Kbps.

I also attempted to transfer simultaneously multiple files in two directions (one incoming and one outgoing) and found Skype very relaxed at managing this.

I therefore found the file transfer capability reliable, easy-to-use, and performing at more than acceptable levels.


This new version of Skype has really a lot to offer and I would personally recommend it to anyone wanting to have quality VoIP communications over high speed Internet connections (ISDN or better).

There is a lot more to say about Skype, as the number of options has increased to offer lots of many useful things.

The overall interface still leaves lots to be desired for a tool that is already used by over 7 million people worldwide. Icons are not very legible, it is not easy to immediately now what to click, some basic tasks are hard to get to.

It is probably on this UI front that Skype could really improve the most. In what it is good at, real-time voice communications, it is already the clear, undisputed leader.

Readers' Comments    
2004-08-04 04:51:31


Hi: I tried to use SCYpe but it gave me an error
message and did not open an account for me.
Then I found out it is designed only for W2000
and XP. I still use w98SE so this may be the
error? Is there a version for W98SE? Your article
sounds so good, I whish I could try out same.
Any suggestions?
Nice article!
Thanks, Egon

posted by Robin Good on Thursday, July 29 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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