Skype: Two Cups and Some String

With all the technology present in the world today, communication is easier than ever.  Since becoming head of Sealevel’s international business, I have been able to test out some of these mediums for business and home use.

I had heard of Skype and had even created an account a few years back. Although when you live and work in the same country, there’s little appeal to all the effort involved to make a call you could with your cell phone, or so I thought.

After moving across the ocean and realizing the cost impact of my wife speaking with her mother (which can be an hourly event), I had to do something about it. Skype was the answer. My wife can video chat to her heart’s content. And the best part?  It’s free!

For those who aren’t technically blessed (no need to be Bill Gates though), you can add credit to your Skype account via a predefined debit card, which allows you to make regular calls to landlines and cell phones. Perfect for calling the grandparents then.

What about the sound quality, I hear you cry.  Well, that’s the best part! It sounds like you’re across the room! The video is clear as day and there’s zero delay – and I have a snail like 1.5mbps connection at my apartment.

I have implemented Skype at the office too.  I’m building up my Skype contact list nicely, and have found the different ways to communicate with our international partners very useful. For example, I can text chat online via Skype’s instant messenger service; talk via a Skype handset I have; video conference when we have products to showcase; and share the contents of our desktops for web presentations.  All this works well with time zones too, as many of my clients may have left the office, but have their Skype account open at home. As a result, quick conversations become much easier and less intrusive.

The cherry on the cake was the Skype app for the iPhone – I mean, these guys have thought of everything. You can make calls as if you were on your cell phone. Even the graphics interface looks the same.  In saying that you need Wi-Fi to make calls, I tried calling the UK when on the AT&T 3G network and got a message saying Skype calls needed to be made over Wi-Fi due to contractual restrictions.  Well, I guess someone at the cellular companies should be worried.


  1. DEF
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t know about the iPhone app – and it is free! Adding it to my phone now and will give it a try.

  2. Chuck
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Hey James, I have used Skype to make several calls abroad and have found the sound quality to be surprisingly, crystal-clear. Also, I fully expected there to be an irritating delay or some other annoying factor that would prompt me to pick up my standard land-line phone – nothing. And, as you mentioned, it’s free! So, congratulations Skype, you have managed to sneak one past an ultimate “Free Stuff” skeptic…but, I’ll be keeping an eye (and an ear) on you.

  3. WR
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Hey James – Nice post showing how a great system design must be the foundation for a good user interface. That deep integration is really what makes great tools worth learning as you use them on a day to day basis.

  4. Mike
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I just read your post and loaded Skype on my computer. Wow, what a clear way to connect face to face with people. Love that it is free…

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