Uh-oh, Skype, Viber 3.0 goes desktop

Mobile VoIP provider Viber has broken new ground by releasingViber for Desktop 3.0 for Windows and Mac, extending its existing mobile service beyond the mobile-only Viber 3.0 app to desktops and laptops.

The new desktop build provides all the functionality currently enjoyed on the mobile app, including free voice calls, photo messaging, text chat and location-sharing with other Viber users, but also adds support for desktop-to-desktop video conferencing too.

It’s hard not to draw comparisons between Viber and other similar VOiP services, in particular Skype. However, there are key differences, particularly in the sign up and registration process. Viber users must install the mobile app first and register their mobile number, which is used to identify them on the Viber network.

The advantage of this approach is that finding other Viber users is simple -- by granting the mobile app access to the phone’s address book, it can automatically detect other Viber users and make them immediately visible via the app’s Contacts screen.

This functionality is mirrored in the new desktop version -- users must have first configured and registered the app using their mobile phone, then use this to log into the desktop version. A confirmation SMS is sent to the user’s phone, and then the desktop app is enabled as an extension of the mobile service, allowing users to seamlessly switch devices during calls and chats. This connection extends to the syncing of messages between mobile and desktop apps.

The desktop application functions in a similar way to the mobile app, albeit with an extended screen and interface. It’s also unique in providing video call capabilities using a compatible webcam -- at the present time this feature is in beta, and restricted to desktop-to-desktop calls only.

While direct video conferencing isn’t yet available to mobile users, brand new versions of Viber 3.0 for iOS and Android have introduced video messaging capabilities, which work in a similar way to the video message feature recently added to Skype. Other new features include new stickers, support for transferring live calls between desktop and mobile, and improved voice engine promising better quality on all networks.

Viber may initially struggle to compete with more established services such as Skype, particularly if users struggle to persuade their contacts to switch or try the new service. However, with over 200 million users worldwide, it won’t be going anywhere any time soon.

Viber for Desktop is available now as a freeware download for PC and Macs with dual-core processors and 1GB RAM. PCs require Windows XP SP3 or later, while the Mac build requires OS X 10.7 (Lion) or later. Also available is Viber 3.0 for Android and iOS.

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