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December 1, 2005

Skype offers video and teams up with Logitech

Skype Technologies SA has added video calling to the beta version of its popular voice over IP client. And at the same the VoIP pioneer has also revealed a significant partnership deal with Logitech International SA, one of the world's largest makers of mice, keyboards, and webcams.

By CBR Staff Writer

The beta version of Skype 2.0 offers greater ease of use and integrated video calling, and is available in 27 languages. The beta is available for download now, although it currently is only available for Windows XP.

The key feature of the beta is Skype Video, which presents friends and family in either a full screen or a Skype calling window. It also includes a window so that you can see what you look like to the person you are calling. At Skype we want to make talking over the Internet the most natural, simple thing for people to do all over the world, said chief exec Niklas Zennstrom. With the release of our new software, it’s never been easier for people to talk to one another for free, and now they can see each other with video as well.

Other features include setting time zones for your contacts. This allows you to see what the time is in the country of the person you are contacting. There are also a number of self-expression and personalization options, including setting custom ring tones. Contacts can be grouped according to Friends, Family, or Work Colleagues, and Microsoft Outlook contacts can be used with a Skype toolbar for Outlook to find and dial contacts.

The new beta coincides with a number of partnerships. Perhaps the most important is with the Swiss PC peripherals giant Logitech, which will now offer Skype-certified webcams. Skype has also signed partnerships with webcam maker such as Creative and weblog software company Six Apart.

The Logitech webcams come complete with their own Video Effects software, a 1.3 megapixel sensor, RightLight technology, RightSound technology, intelligent face tracking, and a headset.

Meanwhile, Creative has also introduced a Skype-certified webcam, which comes complete with a personal headset with microphone, software, and stand-alone microphone for use when several people wish to talk.

The deal with Six Apart allows Skype users to show their availability, and initiate Skype calls directly from a blog or personal web site.

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Skype, which was acquired by online auctioneer eBay Inc for $2.6bn in September, is facing a raft of competition from the likes of MSN, Yahoo, and AOL, all of which already offer video with their instant messaging services, although their usage is not widespread.

Skype was founded in 2003 by Swede Niklas Zennstrom and Dane Janus Friis. The company is headquartered in Luxembourg, but is run out of its London, UK office. It boasts an impressive 150 million-plus downloads of the software, with 65 million registered users. This is growing at roughly 170,000 to 190,000 a day.

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