The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Skype is an extremely popular method of making almost free voice calls to telephones and free calls to Skype-equipped computers all around the world. The service has millions of users and reportedly is now the biggest provider of international voice calls in the world. It also supports two-way video calls, which are great for talking with distant relatives.
Note: I won't call them "telephone calls" as there is no normal telephone involved on computer-to-computer calls and only one phone involved on the Skype-to-telephone calls. I'll simply call them "voice calls."
I have been a Skype user for years and have made hundreds of calls. I have enjoyed the high-fidelity calls from computer-to-computer and the normal-fidelity calls when calling telephones. I have made several international trips in recent years, and I called hotels and rental car companies in several countries via Skype when planning the trips. I have always been a satisfied Skype user, but I also keep an eye open at all times for perhaps even better alternatives. Now two things happened recently to make me consider switching:
- Skype’s system had a total failure last holiday season. The system was completely offline for many hours and then slowly came back online over a period of days. Some Skype users were unable to make calls for several days. The cause revolved around Skype's proprietary peer-to-peer networking protocol that depends on other computers being available to help carry the load. In fact, other computers were available but became overloaded. Skype assures us that the problem has now been fixed and should not happen again, but I still question the use of a non-standard protocol. Almost all other voice call services use SIP, an industry-standard protocol that has proven over the years to be very robust and able to handle all loads ever placed on it, even during peak holiday calling periods.
- Skype is now being purchased by Microsoft. (See my earlier article at http://goo.gl/gxpaQ.) Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has promised Apple fans that support for Skype for Mac and Skype for iPhone will continue to be provided. However, I have to question what level of support will be provided. Will that be full support with new features added as soon as they also become available for Windows? Or will it be that of a "second class citizen" where Mac and iPhone releases will always lag far behind? I use Skype on three non-Microsoft operating systems: one is Linux built into a dedicated telephone that is designed just for use with Skype (see the picture below); a second is my Apple iPhone (used mostly when traveling); the third is for occasional use of Skype video calls on my iMac desktop computer.
My present Skype phone:
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