See as you speak — for free

Anand Parthasarathy

Bangalore: The world's most popular free Internet telephone service has acquired a video edge. Luxembourg-based Skype, whose free Internet Protocol (IP)-based virtual telephone dialler has seen 200 million downloads and nearly 70 million regular users, announced a new version 2.0 on Friday, which includes a video capability, for free download. Users can see the called person as they speak — and be seen — as long as both have a web camera latched to their desktop or portable personal computer.

While virtually free video calls via the Internet is nothing new, most solutions are complicated and demand a common software and compatible webcams and microphones at both ends.

For Indian PC owners whose systems already run Windows XP, and include multimedia features (loudspeakers and mike), the only additional expense will be a suitable webcam, which costs Rs. 1,000-1,500 in most cities. The video quality depends on the Internet connection: with broadband it is reliable, but dial-up users might find the pictures breaking up if connection speeds fall.