I’ve been a huge fan of Skype for a while now as it’s about the only thing that’s kept some kind of sanity going with having spent the best part of a year thousands of miles from Kat. Although there are alternatives, Skype lets you make direct voice calls over the Internet to another Skype user including the usual instant messaging features such as transfering files, but Skype also builds-in the ability to make cheap calls to normal land-lines internationally, along with voicemail facilities and the ability to redirect a static land-line telephone number to Skype. The last couple of features I’ve found pretty weak actually, with the land-line redirection failing to work at all for the 3 months I was subscribed.
But, I’ve spent the last 24 hours trying to authorise payment to purchase additional SkypeOut credit and getting nowhere. I’ve been purchasing SkypeOut credit for a year, so it’s not as if this is the first time I’m making a purchase, and they have my details on record. However, I still cannot successfully complete a transaction. I know there are funds available as I’ve checked with the bank, and have tried a couple of different cards. The only method that got me through ready to complete the order was using PayPal, and call me cynical, I find it amazing that the standard credit-card systems Skype provide fails but their recommended method of purchasing, PayPal, works fine. PayPal is an eBay company too, isn’t it…
Last week’s announcement that 10-way conferencing calling will only work on the latest Intel processors seems downright stupid. Now admitedly, there aren’t going to be a lot of people that would require more than 5-way calling which standard single-core and AMD processors can offer, other than business users who are probably already running your standard Dell or HP desktop with an Intel processor, but it’s still a worrying sign of how software vendors are willing to lock-out certain features of their software unless you purchase a particularly item of hardware. It’s not as if the Intel chips are faster and so more able to handle the additional processing required for large conference calls, as AMD beat Intel hands-down in the majority of benchmark tests. I’m sure Intel waved a huge wad of cash in front of them in the same way eBay did (and Intel are good at waving things, such as a white flag…), but you have to ask what are they getting out of it?
The $2.3billion or whatever was paid by eBay certainly hasn’t gone into improving the service, as maintaing a connection when the Skype network is moving up to 3.5-4 million online users is still problematic, often dropping the connection, and if I’m meant to be impressed by all this noise for the last 4 months or so they’ve been generating over Skype 2.0 having video calling features, I’m not. That’s been around for at least 5/6 years in other IM clients.
For a company with so much funding available to them and with such a huge user base and possibilities, they’ve swung in the last 12 months or so from being more interested to providing cheap calls and simple methods of communications to those around the world using the power of the Internet, to a company more interested in making money. That’s what a business is about at the end of the day I suppose, but unless you have a decent product to market and provide the service you’re charging, it’s ultimately going to fail.