Out today, Skype 5.8 for Mac brings a series of changes meant to make the app ready for Apple’s upcoming Mountain Lion, simplify the interface, and improve support for video calls coming from mobile devices. Whereas Skype 5.6, released in March, added support for Lion’s full-screen mode, version 5.8 gets the app ready for Apple’s next major iteration of OS X so you won’t have to “worry about compatibility”. Unfortunately, after an initial test, Skype 5.8 crashed while I was browsing the integrated Facebook feed. The app works on the latest Mountain Lion developer preview, but it seems like Skype will still need to finely tune the software to avoid unexpected quit.
Perhaps more importantly for Mac users, the latest Skype brings back the old Skype’s simplified floating contact list that disappeared after the much criticized transition to version 5.0. Quite ironically, a simplified contact list wasn’t amongst the most shared ideas Skype asked its user base to submit in a contest to propose design ideas; however, the company clearly listened to feedback, and decided to bring back the Contacts Monitor (available from the Window menu through a CMD+3 shortcut) to offer more streamlined access to contacts and groups.
The Contacts Monitor is a resizable floating window listing groups in a toolbar, and contacts with status indicators below them. It provides filters for All, Skype, Facebook, and Address Book contacts, and it allows you to start new chats either via double-click or right-click. The Contacts Monitor is certainly more intuitive and easier to navigate than Skype’s integrated Contacts interface for Skype and Facebook friends. It’s a welcome addition.
In version 5.8, Skype also added better support for video calling from mobile devices. In 5.8, video calls in portrait or landscape mode are automatically adjusted to the right orientation when displayed on a desktop computer. Last, according to Skype, the possibility to open chats in separate windows is “coming soon”.
Skype 5.8 is available as a free download here. You can read the company’s official blog post here.
Earlier today, Skype updated its Mac client with a series of new features, bringing the app to version 5.6 up from the 5.5 beta released in January. Among the most notable improvements, full-screen support for OS X Lion will allow Skype users to eliminate distractions and focus on the chat or call at hand by putting the app in a dedicated workspace on 10.7. Speaking of calls, group video calling received a fresh coat of paint with an improved user interface design that now allows for easy switching between dynamic and non-dynamic modes — when dynamic mode is on, the person who is speaking is moved automatically to the top of the window, similarly to how Hangouts work on Google+.
Whilst still featuring the much criticized window design that was introduced with version 5.0 last year, Skype is making some subtle improvements to the app. For instance, messages can be removed from conversations now, and entire conversations can be deleted from the sidebar (and the history). The first-run experience has also been redesigned, now including a handy tutorial to show what’s new in the latest version of Skype, and guide users though some basic steps such as making a call. Equally important it’s the new Automatic Updates function, which will make sure Skype is running the latest version available and will relaunch the app every once in a while if an update has been detected and downloaded in the background. This option can be disabled in the Preferences.
Skype 5.6 is a recommended update for all Skype for Mac users (it also contains bug fixes), and it can be downloaded here.
Back in September Skype, now part of Microsoft, released a new version of its Mac client with direct Facebook integration for Contacts, the News Feed, and text chat. Skype 5.4 was the result of a partnership between Facebook and Skype, which began earlier this year with video calls on Facebook.com based on Skype’s video technology. However, in Skype 5.4 it wasn’t possible for a user to initiate a video call from Skype, and have it forwarded to Facebook.com in the browser.
With a blog post published this morning, Skype announced that the new beta version of Skype 5.4 for Mac has added Facebook-to-Facebook video calling, meaning that, once connected with Facebook, the Skype app will be capable of placing video calls from a Mac to friends online on the Facebook website.
Initiating a Facebook-to-Facebook call from within Skype is quite easy; all you need to do is connect your Skype and Facebook accounts. Then, select a Facebook friend and hit the video call button in Skype- your friend simply picks up the call from Facebook.
Because Facebook’s video calls are based on Skype, the company has managed to interconnect video calls from the desktop app with the new video calling function on Facebook.com. In my tests, the version of Skype I had installed didn’t prompt to update to a new one, and I had to download the new 5.4 beta manually. Users of Skype might find they have version 220.127.116.117 installed; Skype 5.4 Beta is version 18.104.22.1681.
Other than Facebook video calling, 5.4 beta for Mac brings smoother video rendering, but no interface changes or refinements. Skype has been heavily criticized in the past year for the design choices they made with version 5, and the company even launched a competition to outsource some of the message styles included in the desktop app.
With a blog post published a few minutes ago, Skype has announced a new beta version of its desktop client for OS X, which adds Facebook integration for chat, news feed, and friends’ posts. The new Skype for Mac 5.4, available for download here, allows users to connect with Facebook directly within the app — without having to open Facebook’s website — to start chatting with Facebook friends, like their posts, or read and update the News Feed.
Once authenticated with Facebook in-app, Skype 5.4 will display an additional Facebook tab in the Contacts view, enabling you to filter the buddy list down to only people who are available for IM through Facebook. The cross-platform IM solution seems pretty reliable in this regard, in that I was able to easily find a Facebook friend, and start chatting with her while I was using Skype 5.4 for Mac. She received my messages correctly on Facebook’s website. When another friend tried to contact me on Facebook via chat, a new message showed up in Skype’s sidebar next to his name (the Mac version of Skype also supports Growl notifications).
Similarly, I was able to read posts from my news feed, like them, and even post a status update using Skype 5.4.
Skype has also confirmed this release brings a new advertising platform to the app, although I haven’t been able to personally verify this yet:
We are also introducing an advertising platform in this new release, but if you are a paying Skype consumer or have Skype Credit, you won’t see any display ads; similar to the model that is currently being used in our Skype for Windows client.
Skype 5.4 beta for Mac can be downloaded here. After Microsoft’s acquisition, the company recently brought HD video calling to the Mac with version 5.3, and released a native client for the iPad.
Have a Mac with a FaceTime camera or own an external HD video cam? Following Skype’s iPad launch, the latest update for Skype for OS X brings it up to speed with OS X Lion (don’t worry — Skype is still compatible with Leopard and Snow Leopard) while giving you HD camera support for those who have 1.5 Mbps of bandwidth available on the upstream. The latest Skype update can be downloaded here — you can expect to find subtle interface improvements and a boost in stability according to The Big Blog announcement at Skype.
Skype for iPad, first “leaked” online back in late June, has finally been released for free in the App Store as a standalone app, as noticed by TUAW. The app isn’t a universal update for the iPhone version, meaning you’ll have to download it as a separate app on your iPad, and it’s not yet available in the US App Store. The app will likely be released in the US Store later today, perhaps in a few hours.
Skype for iPad features an all-new interface design with larger contact pictures, a buddy list on the left, and possibility of starting a new video-calling session in full-screen with video being captured from the iPad’s rear or front-facing cameras. The app can do video and audio calling both on WiFi and 3G, much like the iPhone version already can.
A list of features from the iTunes page:
Talk face-to-face or show what you’re seeing with front and back-facing cameras.
Use Skype for iPad to call anyone else on Skype – and enjoy near CD quality (SILK) sound.
Instant message and add emoticons to personalize your messages.
Make cheap calls to landlines or mobiles from your iPad.
Get an Online Number from Skype so people can call you on your iPad.
Pay As You Go with Skype Credit – great for when you’re using Skype every now and again.
Pay monthly with a subscription – best if you use Skype a lot.
We will update this story with more details on the app and first impressions as soon as we get our hands on it. More screenshots and original “leaked” promo video below.
Just a little while ago, Skype 5.2 for Mac was made available and makes further improvements upon version 5.1, which had tried to appease complaints from the version 5 Skype relaunch that saw significant backlash from users. With this new version, group video calls are now out of beta and available for the general public and users can share their screens or documents in a group call. Unfortunately, group video calling, screen sharing as well as document sharing all require a Skype Premium subscription, which costs between $4.49 and $8.99 per month.
While screen sharing is already available for free on a one-to-one Skype call, group screen sharing makes communication and collaboration on group calls even richer by enabling people to view presentations, photos and documents on a participant’s screen, perfect for presenting a document to colleagues knowing they can’t skip slides in advance or for sharing holiday photos with friends and family.
There are also some UI modifications, for example in the sidebar there is now a ‘Recents’ region, which displays a list of the most active conversations, a history section also shows less active users. The call control bar now also features a video feed so that when you are multi-tasking during a video call you can still see the person as well as mute or hang up directly from that bar.
Meanwhile, there hasn’t been any movement on the release of the Skype iPad app, which had been expected to launch last week. However, Skype will apparently be making its way into some kind of Facebook video chat service which is rumoured to launch this week.
Ballmer Confirms Skype’s Commitment to Other Platforms
We will continue to invest in Skype on non-Microsoft client platforms,” said Ballmer during a news conference announcing the company’s plan to buy chat and Internet phone software maker Skype for $8.5 billion.
Following this morning’s big announcement of Microsoft buying online communication giant Skype for $8.5 billion, Mac and iOS users immediately questioned the acquisition as a way for Microsoft to turn Skype into an exclusive service for Windows Live-connected devices and other Microsoft products such as the Xbox. Steve Ballmer, however, was quick to reassure everyone that Skype will continue working on the Mac, iOS and all the other platforms it currently runs on (including RIM’s BlackBerry and Symbian), also citing how the company has a “track record” when it comes to these matters — Microsoft has a full version of Office 2011 available for Macs, and many apps for iPhones and iPads.
The question, however, is whether Skype will ever release a native iPad app as promised last year, and if the new owner will also bring some welcome interface changes to the Mac app. It would interesting to see Microsoft making a better UI for Skype, just as I’d be curious to see Ballmer heavily touting his recently bought software toy on iPhones and iPad. Time, as usual, will tell.
Those running Skype on OS X are vulnerable to an exploit that allows attackers to gain root access on target machines. Through an instant message, attackers could deliver a malicious payload that would give them remote access via a shell. The severity of the issue has already been addressed by the Skype team, and should be fixed in a future update. In the meantime, a proof of concept reveals the need for caution with recent OS X security warnings and concerns.