Outed: Skype project to dial real phone numbers

Ripe for Skype Hype

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I just spent nearly ten minutes on the phone to Paris, at a cost of about 10 pence. Using Skype, dialling a Paris landline number, that is. Any Skype user will tell you, you can't do that. You can only dial other Skype users. Well, not any more. OK, so it wasn't that secret: Niklas Zennstrom announced his plans for SkypeOut, which makes this possible, at VON Europe a couple of weeks back. But it wasn't released with much ballyhoo: so it is a surprise to find that if you download the latest version of Skype today, you'll get an extra feature on your screen; beta SkypeOut is there, and it works.

This means that mobile users can use Skype from public hotspots to place all their business calls, not just calls to other Skype users.

By the way, don't bother using the Skype "check for updates" option; it will tell you you have the latest version. You don't if you don't see the "dial" option on the home screen. Download again!

Really, Skype is an Instant Messenger - like MSN and AIM and YM - but instead of doing typewritten chat with voice as an optional extra, it does voice as its main function. At a point in history when Yahoo! appears to be throwing the plot away by abandoning its YM for corporate customers, Skype has expanded its offering.

The new feature couldn't be simpler: you give Skype money, and they connect you to phone numbers. All you need is a broadband connection, and a headset.

The file has been uploaded, and deployed on the web servers.

skype_beta_screen The new "dial" feature is definitely still a beta product. The second number you dial doesn't over-write the first. You can edit the number on the screen if it is wrong, but the phone won't dial the new number, it just carries on with the old one. And there's no sign of working caller ID; which seems to mean that you can't call a Skype user from the phone network yet.

The price list is up on the Web.

"Like the Skype software itself, the SkypeOut service is currently in a beta testing phase," warns the company. "So please be patient if you notice irregularities or inconsistencies with the SkypeOut service, voice quality, and this webstore — which may occasionally be inaccessible."

However, they add - with a sense of knowing what matters -"be assured that all credit card transactions are 100% secure, authorized and handled by our third party payment partner."

Feel free to call me as gkewney on Skype to report any interesting features. Oh, and don't use SkypeOut to phone the police - it won't work...

All you need is the free download from Skype.com and a working headset with microphone like this Logitech, for example, or the Emkay and you're online. Even from the nearest Broadreach hotspot or from Starbucks. Over wireless.

Of course, SIP phone users will say that you don't need to do this; but the fact is that setting up a SIP service like Gossiptel or Stanaphone is frequently fraught with opportunities to screw up. Stanaphone does provide an excellent starter service of 200 free phone calls to American numbers; but it is also entirely dependent on Stanaphone's gateway being in good working order. Often, it's down (it's a new service) and having a Skype client ready to run on your notebook can get you out of trouble.

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