In addition to releasing another premium service (voice mail), free Internet telephony provider Skype also emerged from its beta tests of a version for OS X in the last week. According to a story by News.com's Ben Charny, Skype "is testing a voice mail service, a sign its set to catch up to competitors when it comes to taking messages." Referring to other Internet telephony providers like Vonage and AT&T, Charny wrote that "Most other top-tier commercial Internet phone providers have made voice mail a staple, in some cases, years ago." Although Charny couldn't get a spokesperson to discuss the feature, Skype's Web site is offering Skype users an opportunity to participate in beta tests of the feature.
Meanwhile, Skype for OS X 1.0 is finally out and I've already started working with it. I've been using the beta of Skype for OS X to conduct and record the interviews I've been doing in ZDNet's series of podcasts on matters of IT. So far, I've had some difficulty. After experiencing enough sound quality problems in an attempted conference of Skype users (due mostly to issues relating to my guests' microphones), I went to Plan B which was to have them dial into a regular conference call, and then I would connect to that call through Skype's bridge to the plain old telephone system (POTS). As with connecting to any conference call, you must key extra digits into the telephone's keypad in order to access a specific conference. Skype provides a mouse operated keypad for those times when numbers must be dialed manually (like conference calls or accessing voice mail systems), but in my situation, the keytones simply weren't registering on the other end.
In acknowledging the bug, Skype spokesperson Kelly Larabee told me via e-mail "The [Skype] engineering team is aware of the issue and working to resolve it. The theory is the tones are too short for some systems as they are set to a standard of 100 ms which may be too short for some commercial systems." As a part of my media credibility experiment, the entire e-mail thread between me and Larabee can be viewed on my media transparency channel.
In addition to the problems with Skype's keytones, once I found a workaround (I dialed one of the guests directly and he three-way called me into the conference), I experienced an overwhelming number of dropouts in the audio. Without trying the same exact call with competing Internet telephony solutions however, I cannot defensibly attribute the problem to Skype. One plausible explanation is that the call was attempted during what is often the most congested time of the day for the Internet (because of how people are coming back from the lunch on the East Coast and just showing up to work on the West Coast): Between 1pm and 2pm ET.