Skype 2.0 Brings Video, Partnerships

Skype on Thursday launched a beta of the second major revision to its popular PC calling software, adding video support and announcing partnerships with Logitech, Creative and Web log software maker Six Apart.

The company plans to use these partnerships to both promote the software as well as enhance the user experience. Logitech will jointly market Skype with its QuickCam Fusion and QuickCam for Notebooks Pro webcams.

Creative has introduced a Skype-centric webcam called WebCam Instant Skype Edition, which bundles a headset microphone and offers a standalone microphone when more than one person wishes to talk.

Finally, Six Apart will promote Skype through its TypePad Web log service and enable users of the service to integrate their online status into their blogs and give readers another method of contacting the author.

"At Skype we want to make talking over the Internet the most natural, simple thing for people all over the world to do," Skype CEO Niklas Zennstrom said in a statement. "With the release of our new software, it's never been easier for people to talk to one another for free, and now they can see each other with video as well."

Other features of the Skype 2.0 beta include a simplified user interface; a self-expression feature that allows the user to communicate whether they are happy, sad, available to talk or do not want to be disturbed; personalization features; as well as integration with Microsoft Outlook through an an optional toolbar.

The "Skype-certified" webcams will be made available through Skype's online store, and through retail partner RadioShack, which recently announced an agreement with the VoIP provider to sell starter kits for the service.

Skype 2.0 beta for Windows can be downloaded from FileForum. A video-enabled Mac OS X version of Skype is coming soon, the company said.

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