Well, I pay for a Skype In number and Skype Out credits. I use Skype as my main office phone – so, yes, I expect more from them. ;-) What sucks is that I didn’t get a single update from Skype. I had to rely on reports from the web.
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It seems all the big names want to get into the group buying craze before it dies. Today’s entrants into the group buying fun are Skype and Microsoft.
Microsoft is offering Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010 Windows Download for $99 via 1SaleADay. The overview says the Professional Plus version includes: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, OneNote, Publisher, Access, InfoPath, SharePoint Workspace, and Lync. A number of people on some of the deal sites are questioning if this is a legit deal so you may want to read the forum posts before you buy. Amazon lists this version of Office at $410.
Skype is offering three-months (affiliate link) of their Premium service for $10 via Groupon. It appears the deal is located in the Chicago section of Groupon so just navigate there when you arrive at Groupon. It looks like the main benefit of Skype premium is group video chat – you can also video chat with customer service. Skype is promoting the Groupon deal on the skype.com homepage. It appears the Skype-Groupon deal begins later today.
It’s interesting to me to see the big brands promoting their group buying deals on their websites while the small businesses are not promoting their deals. I guess maybe the difference is quick revenue bump vs. lead-gen?
Logitech has announced the launch of a new video calling product today named Vid. Here’s how Logitech describes the Vid service, “Logitech dramatically simplifies video calling with Vid by offering a streamlined setup and a simple, intuitive interface dedicated to video calling. In fact, you can set up Vid in fewer than half the steps required by the major instant-messaging programs.”
Basically you install an application and then when you want to video call someone, you send them an email with an invitation to video chat. I guess that means you need to figure out when your friend or family member is around for the chat. Logitech says they made the application as easy-to-use as possible.
The service is free for Logitech webcam owners; others can use the service for free for 30 days and then they are required to purchase a Logitech webcam.
I guess I am confused – Logitech makes out like it’s hard to make a video call today. I make a number of video calls using Skype and it couldn’t be easier. With Skype I know when my buddies are online and when I start a call with them I can click the “start video” button. That’s it. How does using yet another piece of software and having to send out emails versus just seeing my buddies online make it easier? I am also not forced to use a Logitech webcam – something my newly refurbished Dell laptop does not have.
I’ve been playing with TinyChat over the past couple of weeks and it too looks super easy for video conferencing. With over a dozen people using their webcams, the service was solid and no real lag was seen. Using TinyChat couldn’t be easier – there is a large button that says start conferencing – click it and your video and/or audio starts. That’s it – they don’t ask what type of webcam you are using. Mashable’s Pete Cashmore announced earlier this week that they will be using TinyChat for the new Mashable video lounge.
If Logitech wants to get into the video conferencing and calling game, perhaps they should acquire TinyChat.
AOL is announcing the launch of their Open Voice API today. The Open Voice API will work with the AIM Call Out service which allows users of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) to call out worldwide. I guess AIM Call Out could be considered a Skype competitor though it’s not as feature rich or as polished an application.
The new API will allow developers to create applications that build on the AIM Call Out functionality and use devices including softphones and mobile devices with WiFi capabilities. Steve Murphy, Senior Vice President, AOL said, "We’re building on the popularity of the Open AIM program and opening up the AIM Call Out platform, enabling open standards voice communication services to proliferate in the marketplace." Check out the developer guidelines for the API.
Both AOL Call Out and Skype’s "Skype Out" service charge per minute and offer monthly unlimited plans.
Today’s hot social news is the announcement of Skype partnering with MySpace to integrate Skype into the MySpace IM client and into the site itself. Owen from Valleywag sums it up well, "The bottom line: Now you can call your MySpace friends right from the "add me" page!" I really don’t see the value here and am betting most users will turn off the call function after the first few "perv" calls.
What about the business model? That’s easy too — people who use a free service such as MySpace are going to buy premium services from Skype to integrate into their MySpace profiles and IM. Sure, they will use the free calling, but I can’t actually imagine many takers on the paid services. This contradicts what Amit Kapur, vice president of business development at MySpace said today, "If we can engage the user base in the right way and increase usage and create the right sort of premium experience that people want to participate in, as well as monetize around the free environment through advertising, it can be a viable business partnership".
Caroline at Webware has some interesting thoughts on the deal, "Only 25 million out of MySpace’s 110 million active users have downloaded the MySpaceIM client. And neither company is at the top of its game. MySpace still leads the social-networking field in membership and traffic, but has lost its place in the spotlight to fast-growing rival Facebook. And Skype hasn’t exactly turned out to be a real winner for eBay, with some critics saying that the two are mismatched.".
Om Malik notes, "The new client will give a big boost to both communities and is a net positive for both Skype and MySpace."
I guess we will wait and see once the service launches in November — will it be a long-lasting relationship or a one-night stand? What are your thoughts? Will you enable this option on MySpace?
Yugma is a simple-to-use desktop sharing application that we reviewed earlier in the year. This past week Yugma launched a Skype Edition of the tool offering quick desktop sharing access to anyone you are chatting with using Skype.
"We wanted to build upon Skype’s legendary ease of use," said Karel Lukas, COO of Yugma. "Skype makes it easy for people to stay in constant contact and to communicate with one another spontaneously. We believe collaboration needs to move in the same direction, which is why it was natural for Yugma and Skype to come together."
"It’s as simple as clicking ‘Start Sharing’ in the Yugma window and your friend can see your entire desktop. Press another button in the window and you can swap the sharing power to them… so users of Windows and Mac can share desktops with each other!" wrote Caitlin of Skype in last week’s Skype Developer Program Newsletter.
Yugma offers free and paid options. The free is actually quite powerful and is ad-supported. The paid plans offer additional services such as a recorder, file storage and scheduling. I’ve used it a bunch of times for demos and it’s easier than using WebEx as there is no software to install.
Canadian blogger Mark Evans discusses customer service when a service is free. Let's clear this up quick; Skype is free for some but not all. I just renewed my SkypeIn for $18 (did this go up in price??) and voicemail at $6. I also paid for unlimited SkypeOut ($25?) and in my book, that's enough to expect better communication than I received last week. It doesn't mean the service can't experience an outage, but it means I better know what is going on. Skype used their Heartbeat blog to let us know what was going on and that's great but why did I receive not one email? They have my email, they have every bit of info on me since I pay for their service.
Andy Beal agrees and notes:
Mark does raise an interesting point about Freemium services, those that offer a free plan and a premium option. What should the support level be for each? Should it be the same or different? My belief is that a company like Skype needs to offer staggered levels of support based on the plan(s) a customer subscribes to. Customer service has been a very important part of my package since I worked at the grocery store at 14.
Last November I wrote a post titled, "Customer Service: Free vs. Paid Services" in which I describe the minimums that a free service needs to offer for support. They are:
- Community Help Forums – I like Drupal as the example here, a completely free app with no advertising and their support forum is awesome – 85% of the time, someone has helped me (or I have helped) within 12 hours. This can also help you gain valuable knowledge into how your users view your application.
- FAQ – This is a must have. As inquiries come in, either through email, forums, etc. Get it up, make sure it is updated frequently. A good job for an intern.
- Wiki – This is similar to the FAQ but allows for open editing by service users.
Good to have:
- Email support – offer a way for users to email you for help. Make sure you tell them when to expect a response (24/48/72 hours, etc.)
- Phone support – most probably can't afford this, but with new services out there, you could have customers leave voicemail messages with questions or comments, and then get back to them. I would consider this to be the best possible level of support.
So I ask, what level of support do you expect from a service that you use for free or generating revenue from your usage of their product?
As we know Skype was out of service for ~36 hours last week. Well it's back now and we just received a tip that the newest release now contains heavy product ads. There have been small ads for a while now, but these new ads are bigger and bolder than before. It might be worth waiting to download for now. It this just the first step? Will we start to see eBay ads and others inside the Skype window? This is ultra-valuable real estate!
Here is an example:
Thanks for the tip Corsin.