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Skype released the beta of the third iteration of its VoIP software today, as Microsoft turns its roving eye towards the free net call market.

The biggest innovation in Skype 3.0 is click-to-call, which eBay will be hoping will justify the $2.6bn it splurged on Skype. With the help of Google it means a single click on an ad will dial a sales monkey at the vendor.

Also new is the Skypecast™, which are basically moderated conference calls for up to 100 users. Elsewhere there's improvements to the interface and, er, new wallpapers.

Meanwhile, at a Microsoft conference in Tokyo on Monday, Steve Ballmer will have put the Redmond willies up the VoIP industry with his chilling statement that Microsoft "are going to enter the voice over IP market the beginning of next year".

Ballmer gave scant details, but the plan is to tie-up VoIP, IM, and email into one communications package. Microsoft already offers VoIP through Live Messenger, but sticking it in Outlook would make internet telephony much more visible to VoIP virgins. ®

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