One of the lead stories on the news this morning....no, NOT the one about Maria and Arnold spliting up.... was the apparent acquisition of Skype by Microsoft for a whopping $4.5 billion. My immediate reaction was, "Why would you pay that huge amount of money for something you can get for free?" Obviously, there's much more to it than that, although I noted that skeptical investors appear to have raised much the same question. Mainly, I hope this wonderful program doesn't lose its excellent qualities (including low/non-cost) under the new owners.
I had actually made a mental note to "blog" briefly about Skype based on my vacation experiences and as part of my series of comments on my Ipad. Today's headline got me thinking about this topic again. You may recall that in my first blog about the Ipad, I raised the issue of whether it was just a larger Iphone, without the phone. Over time, however, I have come to view my Ipad as a nearly indispensible tool when traveling. It allows me to do virtually everything I need when I don't want to carry my larger and heavier laptop.
At home, my wife and I have used Skype on our desktop computers to communicate with our daughters and their husbands on the "left" coast, and it gives wonderful video and audio over any reasonbly robust broadband internet connection. The software is free and so are the video/audio links, provided that you are connecting internet to internet and not direct dialing to a phone on the other end. That's a hard deal to beat! I can't help but wonder if Microsoft will let that stand. I sure hope so.
Recently, while on vacation on Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles, we needed to call home to check on one of our dogs. The villa where we stayed had a moderately good WiFi connection, but phone contact stateside via "roaming" on my Iphone was prohibitively expensive. I decided to pursue the "direct phone connection" feature of Skype. It took about 5 minutes to download the free Skype software to my Ipad and get it installed. In order to dial directly to a phone, rather than establishing a purely internet connection, you have to pay a modest fee. I wondered initially how modest. Skype asks you to use a credit card to deposit $10 into a Skype phone account. I wondered how many seconds that would last. I shouldn't have been concerned.
A large keypad appears on your Ipad screen and with no effort whatsoever, I was able to make three fairly lengthy (5+ minute each) long distance calls stateside. The audio quality was excellent with only rare dropped words due to a large number of very well behaved Canadian college kids sharing the WiFi that I was using. Total costs for all three calls was.... $0.40. ...and the dog was fine as well!
So the reality is that the Ipad most certainly can be an "Iphone" with a good WiFi connection and Skype software. Of course, the Skype software works equally well on an Iphone when you are out of the country, have a WiFi connection and don't want to run up huge cellular roaming charges. Let's hope Microsoft doesn't mess this up, or if they do that another provider comes along with the same excellent service.