If you haven’t yet heard of Skype, you will. Skype is one of the simplest and most notable VOIP (Voice over IP) phone services on the market. Don’t let the acronym scare you. Even my eighty-seven year old father-in-law uses it.

So what’s the benefit you ask? Skype comes in many flavors; however the basic service allows users to make unlimited computer to computer calls and video conferences to anyone in the U.S. or Canada for free.

Using their optional SkypeOut service, you can call from your computer to any landline in the U.S. or Canada for a flat fee of $29.95 per year or call almost anywhere in the world for as low as 2.1 cents per minute.

Let’s look at a couple of real world examples. Recently I was waiting in the business class lounge in London and I needed to confirm my reservations in Prague, Budapest and Vienna. Using my laptop computer and the lounge’s wireless network I was able to call all three hotels for less than thirty cents thus saving a fortune in cellular international charges.

Last year my son spent five months traveling around China while attending the University of Beijing. With Skype we were able to speak with him at length for a nominal per minute charge. In addition, we were able to: video conference with him; see his dorm room, meet his roommate, send chat messages and more. Using SkypeOut he could call our cell phone when we weren’t at our computer for a minimal fee of a couple cents a minute. During that time my mother was very ill and in the hospital in Los Angeles. I brought my laptop to her bedside and using the hospital’s wireless network, setup a video call to allow them to talk and see each other. Sound and picture quality was quite good; however the video portion works best with a high speed connection.

Installation is easy. Simply download the Skype software at www.skype.com, make a free test call, search for friends who are using the service and start making calls. In addition, you can transfer files and participate in Skypecasts which are live moderated conversations with up to 100 people. My secretary can even send me incoming text messages while I’m on the phone. You can even make conference calls and keep a log of your chat sessions. I often use all of the features to keep in touch with Clients and to collaborate with coworkers. These are just some of the features currently available.

Manufacturer: Skype

*Images provided by the manufacturer