Skype Releases Version 1.0 With Conference Calling

Luxembourg based, free internet telephony company Skype announced Tuesday the availability of its Skype version 1.0 Internet voice calling software for Mac with conference calling for up to five users.

Version 1.0 for Mac OS X adds an number of features previously available only in Skype for Windows 1.0, the company said. Other features included in the free download are a global contact directory, cross platform instant messaging, file transfer and end to end encryption.

Skype for Mac OS X has been in beta since its introduction in August of last year and has gone through nine different updates. The biggest beta update came in October with the addition of 12 new features.

The company also released Tuesday version 1.0 for Linux.

Skype, which claims to have 23.9 million registered users and has been praised for its high sound quality versus its competitors such as iChat and AOL Instant Messenger, is fast becoming a major force in the voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) market. The company says it is signing up more than 130,000 new users per day, has more than 735,000 paying users and has over two million users in China.

But as Skype grows, so grows its competition. The London Times recently reported that Google is preparing to launch an Internet telephone service to rival Skype, and long distance providers like AT&T, MCI and Sprint are fast becoming major players in the VoIP market.

A recent study by market researcher Evalueserve concluded Skypeis business model will lead to all voice calls being free, and the profitability of incumbent telcos dropping significantly. Evalueserve predicted there will be 140 million to 245 million Skype users by 2008.

Skype for Mac OS X 1.0 requires a Macintosh computer with Mac OS X v10.3 or newer, a G3, G4, or G5 processor at a minimum of speed of 400MHz, 128MB of RAM, 20MB of free hard-disk-drive space, sound card, speakers, microphone and an Internet connection.