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Is Skype's new paid model an opportunity for FaceTime?

That slurping sound you hear is FaceTime slowly sucking users from the Skype juggernaut. Does Skype's announcement of its new premium service mark the beginning of the end?

That slurping sound you hear is FaceTime slowly sucking users from the Skype juggernaut.

Skype is arguably the defacto communication tool for much of the tech community. Heck "Skype me" has become just as much a part of the lexicon as "Google it."

I'm on Skype pretty much 24/7 and it has all but replaced IM (with some help from Twitter) and in a lot of respects, email too. Skype is especially dominant if you work, live or collaborate outside of the U.S.

But are Skype's leadership days numbered?

Skype's announcement of version 5.0 for Mac brought some troubling news with it: Skype is no longer free. But before gathering our torches and pitchforks for a march on Skype's Luxembourg headquarters, let's take a look at what's changed in the Skype business model.

  • Group video calling between 3-10 people is now part of Skype's Premium Package which costs $5 per day or $9 per month (with a free trial, natch)
  • Skype Premium also includes video tech support (currently in English only).
  • Skype-to-Skype calls, one-to-one video calls, instant messaging and screen sharing remain free.

So while things like IM, chat and person-to-person video calls are still free, Skype is clearly laying down the gauntlet with its premium package. Could this be a sign of things to come? How long until Skype decides to charge for one-to-one video calls, too?

Enter FaceTime, Apple's video calling sweetheart for iOS and Mac OS. Announced with the iPhone 4 at WWDC 2010, FaceTime allows video calling between iOS and Mac OS devices -- much like Skype -- and is (theoretically, anyway) based on open standards.

FaceTime Pros:

  • Pre-installed on millions of devices, for a huge installed base
  • You don’t even have to create an account if you have an iTunes account
  • Marketing resources and momentum of the #1 company in tech (with a $50M warchest)

FaceTime Cons:

  • iOS and Mac OS-only (no Android, Windows, Linux, Chrome support at present)
  • WiFi only (although you can enable 3G video calling by jailbreaking and installing My3G)

So what's holding up FaceTime? Where's are the Windows and Android clients?

Graphic: iPhone Download Blog