Skype 2.5 adds usability and better payment options

VoIP pioneer Skype has released a new beta version of its popular Internet telephony software. Although not a major step forward for the software, Skype has worked on making the sometimes clunky user interface a little more intuitive.

Skype claims that Version 2.5 has better usability for dialling, improved conference calling and integration with Microsoft Outlook.

The new version now includes a drop down menu so that subscribers choose the name of the country they want to dial instead of having to look up or remember the country code. The new version also offers the ability to view Outlook contacts in Skype and call directly via SkypeOut to landlines or cell phones.

Customers can now add more money to their SkypeOut accounts from the software rather than having to top up their credit through Skype’s Web site. They can also use the software to buy the new ringtones service.

The service has also widened, with Version 2.5 allowing a subscriber to send a one-way text message to any mobile phone number in the world by selecting a SkypeOut contact, entering a mobile phone number or selecting a Skype contact’s mobile phone number.

Finally, to answer users’ complaints over the sometimes poor quality of the service, the new software allows the user to adjust their Internet settings to get the best possible call quality.

Skype is also planning to road test a version of its Skypecast software that, the company says, will allow up to 100 people to chat online at the same time.

The software will allow anyone to join in the conference call at any time. The originator of the call will have moderator rights and will be able to mute, unmute or remove anyone on the call who does not conform to the rules of behaviour.

Anyone can hold a Skypecast simply by logging on to skypecasts.skype.com and registering the time and discussion topic. Of course, you first need Skype to join a Skypecast. The blogging site Six Apart is already hosting chats based on the Skype software.

The company has increased the pace since it was acquired by eBay last year. Over the past few months it has improved its offering with new features like video conferencing and improved the stickiness with new features like Skype Personal.

Earlier this week, it announced that it had reached 100 million downloads.

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