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Skype announced Skype 2.0 beta release, today, featuring video (on Windows machines).

Skype 2.0 is free. The computer-to-computer calling software from Skype now has a subscriber base of more than 60 million. The company makes money by selling other services, including prepaid plans for computer-to-traditional telephone calls at low rates.

Accordng to an LA Times revewer, “the synchronizations of voice and lip movements were very good — that’s usually a big problem on the video IM systems — and the image was quite clear. The image quality is not quite as good as that achieved by the iChat AV system that Apple Computer debuted in 2003. But iChatAV only works on Macintosh machines.

Skype 2.0 features include:

  • “Skype Video. Skype Video is fully integrated into Skype calling, and can be adjusted to provide full-screen video with just one click.”
  • “Self-expression. Broadcast your mood along with your online presence. Let your contacts know whether you’re happy, sad, listening to your favorite music, available to talk or do not want to be disturbed.”
  • “See your contacts’ time zones. Before you wake up your friends, family or colleagues take a quick glance to see what time it is in their location.”
  • “Group your contacts. Organize your contacts by grouping your friends, co-workers or family members. Start conference calls, chats or file sharing with the whole group with just one click.”
  • “Real-time contact search. Look up contacts in real-time by typing a name into the dialing field”

Skype Video uses the On2 Video decoder with an installation base of millions through its inclusion in AOL 9 Media Player, Winamp 5, Viewpoint Media Player, and others.

Skype products, are also distributed in about 3,500 RadioShack retail outlets.

Google Talk, Google’s messaging and VOIP application, can be Video enabled with a plug-in from Festoon. Festoon also has the most popular video plug-in for Skype with more than 2.75 million downloads.

Meanwhile, Microsoft and Yahoo will link up their free instant messaging services to create a combined community of 275 million users, the companies announced in October. The deal, the first major alliance between two of the Web’s main providers of instant messaging, will allow users of Microsoft’s MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger to swap instantaneous text messages with each other. Up to now, such interoperability has been restricted to users within each service. The companies said they expect to have the service up and and running by next June.

AOL, a unit of Time Warner, is currently the instant messaging market leader with a share of 56 percent, according to research firm Radicati Group. But with Microsoft and Yahoo making up most of the rest of the market, their combined service could be a formidable threat to AOL.

Microsoft’s MSN, Yahoo, Google and AOL earn advertising dollars on their service.

William L. Smith, chief technology officer for BellSouth, told reporters his firm should be able to “prioritize” access to the internet.

“Prioritization is just another word for degrading your competitor,” said Gigi B. Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a digital rights advocacy group. “If we want to ruin the Internet, we’ll turn it into a cable TV system” that carries programming from only those who pay the cable operators for transmission.

Related DailyWireless stories include; Videophones: A Brief History, Skype VideoPhone?, and VBlogging Comes Alive.

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