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What Do You Need?
Not much. It doesn't take broadband to carry decent-sounding voice traffic -- a 33.6 Kbps dialup connection is fast enough. The Skype site states that you need a PC running Windows 2000 or XP, at least a 400 MHz processor and 128 MB RAM, 15 MB free disk space on your hard drive, a Sound Card, speakers and microphone. The Skype program is free, and is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and even PocketPC devices. To use Skype to call normal phones, you'll have to put money in your account.
If you have those things, you're set. A good speaker and microphone combination goes a long way toward making your Skype experience more enjoyable. Better still is a nice comfortable headset with a boom mic. It doesn't take much tinkering to get your setup performing well, and once you do, conversations are crisp and clear, with a presence you really don't find in a normal phone call.
Are There Drawbacks?
Not really. I'm sure some of you groaned when I mentioned that company was started by founders of KaZaA, notorious peer-to-peer file sharing program that relied on advertising for its revenue and became an enemy of anti-spyware effort. But Skype is different. Skype plans to earn money through services like SkypeOut and by offering value-added services to businesses. According to its founder, viral marketing drives awareness of product. Zennstrom points out that "If we had adware in Skype, it would kind of be counterproductive to our business model."
For viral marketing to work, he continued, "you need to gain trust of end users... If there is a bunch of adware in software, you probably don't recommend it to friends and family."
Who can say? Zennstrom and Friis both seem proud to be purveyors of what they have termed "disruptive technology." That sounds like it could be a bad thing; but in reality, what's being disrupted is a stale status quo in desperate need of disrupting. Most local phone companies are a monopoly in regions they serve and are only now beginning to face competition. Cable companies like Time-Warner want a piece of VoIP action, and deals are popping up everywhere.
We're pulling for friendly little Luxembourg company, however, to change face of not just Internet telephony, but of all sorts of person-to-person direct communication. They want you to tell your friends, family and coworkers to treat themselves to Skype and spread word by cheerful praise. It seems far-fetched to talk about talk about that in same sentence with your telephone service provider; but that's point here. Once in a while a company comes along with an idea that changes world, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this wasn't one of those times.
Trevor Bauknight is a web designer and writer with over 15 years of experience on the Internet. He specializes in the creation and maintenance of business and personal identity online and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stop by CafeID.com for a free tryout of the revolutionary SiteBuildingSystem and check out our Flash-based website and IMAP e-mail hosting solutions, complete with live support.