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February 28, 2012

SKYPE News - Skype for Windows Phone: Beta Version Is Finally Offered, Warts and All

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

The reaction to this week’s release of the beta version of Skype for Windows Phone (News - Alert) has been mostly positive – but there are some criticisms of the new offering. If reviewers limited their comments to just one word – it may be “finally.”

Windows was the last of the key smartphone operating systems not to offer Skype – even though Microsoft (News - Alert) purchased Skype last year for an impressive $8.5 billion. There were many rumors that it was going to be offered in the ensuing months – but not until this week for the beta version.

The delays annoyed many users eager to use Skype on Windows operating systems. “Many of you have been waiting for this,” Skype admitted on its blog in a posting written earlier this week by Rick Osterloh, vice president of product and design at Skype.

Users can download the beta version from their Windows Phone or from the Marketplace via a computer. The full app will be available for Windows Phone in April, according to the company.

But even with beta, users can make audio or video calls for free to Skype contacts using 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi. Users can also instant message to an entire group at the same time or to a single person. In addition, Skype users can call landline phones and mobile phones with the new app, according to a report from The Verge. It is also relatively easy to find contacts.

“This is only the beginning for Skype for Windows Phone...It's just going to get better and better,” the company commented in the blog post – which incidentally is the apparent frequent response to criticisms made on the beta version. The company also admitted that users “may come across occasional bugs and issues.”

For now, the beta version has only support in English – one drawback noted by non-English speakers. Another drawback noted by TMC Chief Technology Officer Tom Keating (News - Alert) in a blog post is that a video from Skype shows group chats, “but what I'd really like to see is group video calling using Skype on a mobile device.”

“Skype supports group video calling on PCs, so why not mobile devices,” Keating added. “They're powerful enough these days with quad core phones on the way. I wouldn't be surprised if competitor Google (News - Alert) takes Google Hangouts (group video) and extends it to Android devices.”

In its review of the beta version, Mashable said, “Skype for Windows Phone Beta…looks unlike any version of Skype you’ve ever see before.”

“The interface still has its signature sky blue accents, but the button styles and feature organization is all Metro,” Mashable added. “Metro is the new cubist design style that’s seeping into all of Microsoft’s platforms, including Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox Live.”

Keating agreed, saying that the new Skype “follows the elegant and clean Metro tiles design.”

Microsoft has certified some devices for the “best performance” of Skype for Windows Phone. These include the Nokia Lumia 710, Nokia Lumia 800, HTC (News - Alert) Titan, HTC Radar, Samsung Focus S and Samsung Focus Flash.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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