Skype Conference Calls II

February 16, 2004

in Skype Journal

Skype‘s conferencing announcment today takes us ones step closer to the “always on” world. We can expect a new wave of excitement as new users now discover new and very compelling reasons to try out Skype. From always on, running multiple conferences, new incoming call functionality, and then bridging functionalities across different programs.

Quick Reflections:
After my first Skype conference calls I realized how just how “different” it is. In a traditional conference call you dial-in to a phone number and the conference is pinged as you enter. No-one knows who is coming in unitl they announce themselves. These calls are usually scheduled for a specific time. Hardly a spontaneous way to connect a few people or in the “spur of the moment” bring someone new into the conversation. Phil Wolff met my Dad today! So if you haven’t tried it here’s what happens…. I’m Skyping with you and want an additional person in the conversation…. I right click on the new contact in my friends list and that individual is added in to the conversation. My screen (see TDavid for picture) expands to show the new connection. I can introduce them, knowing exactly when the connection is established. If you want more info on them you can right click and view their profile. You need 0.97 to see them once added. Either party in a two way conversation can initiate a conference call.

After the first time… you realize that making a conference call just became that much easier. More importantly, being always on in Skype doesn’t mean you will miss calls from others. You could simply toggle between your “permanent conference” and “individual” calls. Given the number you can put on hold you can be linked and in and out of multiple conferences at any time. Although you personally can only hold one. Experimenting with the auto answering functionality may become interesting here.

Then it is also a surprise (BIG SURPRISE) the first time that you are in a Skype call and another Skype call is incoming. To date we’ve not had this functionality. This puts call waiting to shame! For it is not just a buzzing, rather I see their name and have a choice I can put the other person on hold, I can text them or dial them back and add them into the orginal call expanding it to an instant conference call. Or I can just leave them on hold etc.

I quickly missed a “conference text” capability or even the capability to message all with a link. While in a conference currently you can continue texting one to one however there is no group texting capability. I imagine there are some additional issues to overcome. Perhaps a short-term Skype solution is provide a broadcast text component for the conference moderator that messages all simutaneously. Thus a link could be shared quickly. Almost concurrently with this I found myself in an IM session with Stewart Butterfield Ludicorp and Flickr. It would be pretty neat to run a SkypeFlickr conference tomorrow. I do wonder if programs like these could be activated by the Skype callto: function. Thus an inbound Skype call would provide a Fickr profile (or a group of my choosing) and thus enable photo conference….. etc.

What could be coming?
We’ve posted earlier in these pages about the potential for premium pricing plans, and the business model. I believe we can add to that list a premium conference services which will include a time based dialing capability with advance notification and the name of the conference handled with a group text message capablity. Other functionality could quickly be added. The thing is that Skype is already proving that “integration” strategies for voice are probably flawed. I regularly use Skype and Glance, have tried Skype and Groove, use Skype and Yahoo etc.

I’d expect that more than five participants will become a premium conference service.

Expect to see Skype adopted by gaming kids.

Tomorrow’s Experiment?
I’m still thinking about how to establish a virtual room, a little like an IRC chat channel. The problem is a the moment that conferences have to be initiated. You can’t dial in and be bridged to a conference. Bill Campbell demonstrated that using “TightVNC” you could log to a webpage and then instruct the conferencing computer to call you. This isn’t going to fly for the majority. However, it would be pretty neat to run a series of conferences where you could sign up and automatically be connected when the “threshold” number is reached. Similarly, a group may use another machine to time schedule conferences. Why think about this? I believe there are opportunities for workgroups to have an always on conference. This would bring virtual workgroups closer together. If you initiate this… via Skype as the initiator you can only run the one conference throughout the day. At the moment you are limited to five people.

I bet there are more ideas out there!

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