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Hello Skype, Goodbye Everyone Else

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For the past two weeks I've been checking and rechecking the App Store, waiting for Skype, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and various other apps to make an appearance. Of course, it's more because I'm addicted to app updates because I'm always hoping my favourite ones will have new and exciting features to play with. But Skype for iPad has been so much in the news that anyone would be curious. Actually, Skype itself has been rather centre stage lately. You'd think there was no other way to voice and video call on mobile devices. In fact there are many other similar services around, including Google Talk solutions. If you leave aside video, there are more services than you can count. People have been using them on their phones quite successfully for quite a while now.

Historically though Skype is an early mover and many users are just accustomed to it, especially corporate users. Skype is available on all other platforms but not necessarily for video chat yet. Recently bringing video chat to Android, it's still only available on a few handsets, though this is surely just a matter of time.

Skype couldn't possibly have meant to tease its users when a video of its native iPad app popped up on its Youtube channel in June. When they realised it had gone up, the video was quickly removed. Too late though: most of the world got a peek - and what they saw looked pretty good.

And then again, on 1 August , the Skype app became actually available, but was also then removed. Skype apologised for a premature release. Apparently, some bugs were yet to be fixed. But by the next day it was finally officially available.

All this time, if you wanted to use Skype on the iPad, you'd have to make do with the iPhone app, available and working, but not a pretty sight. It didn't fit the whole screen and so clearly looked not meant for the iPad. The real thing however, is a very neat looking app with a minimalistic feel. A little like a photo album actually, except that my contacts have to go and spoil it all by not putting up profile photos, leaving me with a lot of grayed-out mysterious figures.

The Skype app works fine, with everything easily and intuitively available without your having to look very hard. But you need a good strong connection. I did find a little faltering and some lag on the Wi-Fi connect. It works on both the original iPad and the iPad 2 and does everything Skype for PC does; video chat, messaging, calling. Its simplicity is really rather appealing - Mac users may find the Mac version nicer-looking though, while PC users will almost definitely think the new iPad version is an improvement.
 With the formal launch of its app on the iPad, Skype is all over the place. Microsoft bought it up a few months ago and will integrate it into applications or the OS. Facebook has pulled it in for instant chat on its network… not difficult to see how it's Skype that may continue to dominate the online voice and video chat scene for quite some time.

Mala Bhargava is a personal technology writer and media professional. Contact her at [email protected] and @malabhargava on Twitter

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