A new release of ooVoo for Windows, 184.108.40.206, was made available yesterday. This is the first ooVoo release that is not designated as a "Beta", and it is the beginning of their move to a clearly defined "free" basic package and additional paid services on top of that. I consider it to be the "it's time to figure out how to pay the bills" release. This is definitely not a bad thing as far as I am concerned.
Before I get into the details of the new release, I would like to point out that one thing ooVoo has effectively done with this release is extend their "call any number in the U.S. or Canada for free" offer for one more month. You can download and install the 1.6 release, and choose either of the plans which included phone calls, and you get the next month for free before you have to decide if you are really willing to pay $5/month for it. This is still irrespective of where you are calling from, so wherever you are in the world, if you have friends or family in the U.S. or Canada that you want to talk to, get ooVoo now.
The first thing to be said is that I downloaded and installed the new release yesterday, and had my brother in Atlanta do the same, and we tested it (from the train) yesterday afternoon. It still looks and works the same as the beta releases, and if anything the video and audio quality looked slightly better than previous versions to me, but the cellular connection quality can vary so much that I can't be sure of that.
The more important and interesting part of the new release is the division of services into free and paid "options". The first piece of very good news is that they have left 3-way video chat in the FREE "Standard" package. The standard package also includes normal video, audio and text chat, file transfer, the ability to send video messages up to one minute in length, and a reduced version of the "video effects" feature that was introduced with their 1.5 release.
Their "Super" package, which will have a subscription price of $10 per month, adds up to 6-way video chat, extends video messages to five minutes each, adds the ability to record calls, and includes the full version of the "video effects" feature. It's going to be interesting to see what the interest in this package will be - I can easily imagine business users wanting/needing more than 3-way video and the ability to record calls, and although it may seem odd to include more video effects in this package, one of the "effects" is the ability to share your desktop in a video chat, and that too can be very interesting for business users.
On top of either of these packages, you can add the "Phone" option to get dial-out calls to the U.S. and Canada, for an additional $5 per month. The "Standard+Phone" package includes up to 500 minutes per month, and the "Super+Phone" package includes "unlimited" calls - up to a "fair usage" limit of 3,000 minutes per month. I haven't yet found how much any calls above these limits will cost, but I'm still looking and asking.
For users outside the U.S. and Canada who want or need to call there, these are excellent prices! They are significantly lower than Skype's much-ballyhooed recent announcement of "Unlimited" packages. Even better, they don't try to distinguish (and charge) based on where you are calling from, and they don't limit the calls to land-line phones only!
It is also worth noting that with ooVoo you can include any combination of video, audio and phone participants in a multi-way chat. This is a nice touch, and a rather "cool" feature to use - you can be viewing some participants in a conference, hearing others who don't have or can't use webcams, and even still including others who only have phone access!
There are a couple of minor disappointments for me in this new release and the related announcements. First, I would like to see the phone options include world-wide calls, rather than only the U.S. and Canada. I assume this is coming in later releases, so I don't consider it to be a major issue. Second, I wish that they had left 6-way video (or even 4-way video) in the free version. That's probably just me being selfish, though - if their intention was to get business users to pay for ooVoo, this was probably a very smart decision, and at least leaving in 3-way video for the free version was a good thing for the rest of us.
Finally, I should also mention that the Mac version of ooVoo is still in beta release. It does not yet include phone out capability, video call recording or video effects. I'm sure ooVoo is working on adding these, and when the full release of the Mac version comes (hopefully soon), some or all of them will be included as well.