So, I just got an e-mail a few minutes ago that Skype is now allowing free "SkypeOut" calls anywhere in the U.S. and Canada, which means you can now use Skype to call any regular telephone in that region (or mobile phone) for free. I've used Skype before, but I was curious how well it worked (and never wanted to pay for the service in the past), so I just gave it a shot, and it works pretty well. The person on the other end heard a bit of an echo, and the quality wasn't quite as good as a telephone call for me, but it was better than I expected. I'll probably use it again in the future for long distance calls sometimes.
On a related note, though, I have both a Mac and a PC, and I've had occasion to compare the video capabilities of Skype (which aren't available on Mac yet) with that of iChat (on the Mac). The quality with iChat seems a lot better. Does anyone know what's going on behind the scenes? My guess is that Skype isn't using the full bandwidth it could, while iChat seems to be using a lot more bandwidth, but I'm not sure. Regardless, I am delighted with iChat and keep using it to have video meetings with folks at work and elsewhere, while Skype's video is a bit more of a pain to watch. While it's still better than no video, I'd hesitate to use it for a meeting.
I find it remarkable that after decades of predictions that video telephony was just around the corner, now it has finally arrived -- but it's over the Internet, and with relatively little hoopla. We had some relatives on the other coast get Skype so we could call and show them live video of us with our new baby, and they had no idea that such a thing was even possible until they saw it.