Skype moves to improve videoconferencing

Skype is to release a better videconferencing option to its software early next month, according to the IDG news service. On Christmas Day, 41% of all Skype calls used video.

Skype also plans to focus on business customers this year. It has released a beta version of Skype for Google Android and other Java-enabled phones, and said a version for Apple's iPhone is in the works, apparently.

Skype 4.0, which has been in beta for several months, will be released in early February for PC users, with an equivalent for the Mac OS due later in the year, said Scott Durchslag, Skype's chief operating officer, reported by IDG.

The update includes a new codec that can handle video and audio twice as efficiently as the current version, according to Durchslag, giving smoother video and clearer voice calls. Skype 4.0 will support 30-frame-per-second video for people on fast enough connections, he added.

The client displays video in full-screen mode and the interface has a large green button that makes video calling more prominent. It also supports picture-in-picture, so the caller can see himself and the person he is calling.

A video call between three or more people presents 'unique challenges' over Skype's peer-to-peer infrastructure, however, but it is high on Skype's priority list, Durchslag acknowledged

Skype is also coming to more devices, IDG says. Skype Lite, the Java-based client for phones, should be available free from the Google Android store in the next few days. Along with T-Mobile's G1 Android phone, it will run on more than 100 Java-enabled phones from Motorola, LG, Samsung, Nokia and Sony Ericsson,.

The company has developed a Skype client for the iPhone but needs to reduce its power consumption before it can be released.