We've been Skype users for years now and have been a Skype-only household for months since cutting away our landline for budgetary reasons. But now we're hearing about a legal battle between Skype and online communications technology company Joltid that possibly threatens Skype's existence...
"Although Skype is confident of its legal position, as with any litigation, there is the possibility of an adverse result if the matter is not resolved through negotiation," writes eBay, owner of Skype. "Skype has begun to develop alternative software to that licensed through Joltid. However, such software development may not be successful, may result in loss of functionality or customers even if successful, and will in any event be expensive."
It's likely Skype will remain a viable service for months, if not longer, even if the case is in favour of Joltid, but it doesn't hurt to prepare in advance. What are the alternatives for us Skype households? Well the obvious is using our single cell phone as our only line. This isn't really an option for a home business that depends on separate lines and features like dependable conference call (and any AT&T iPhone user knows "dependable" isn't quite there yet).
Google Voice: We're awaiting to delivery of our invite, but we're very excited about using the account for free U.S. calling in the same way we've used Skype. One issue that Google Voice and Skype supposedly share is the voice delay, alongside the Apple enforced restriction of Google Voice from iPhone makes this a less than perfect choice. It's still our number one choice for a possible switch.
Sightspeed: this is a business oriented Internet video chat and voice calling service which specifically revolves around video conferencing features, something we don't need or want (online writers are notoriously slovenly and the idea of having to see one another while chatting seems horrible at best). This is PC and Mac compatible, and a 30 day trial makes this worth giving a try.
Gizmo5: looks very similar to Skype in features, with anywhere calling from your browser. They also offer something call OpenSkype, which allows any mobile phone, web browser or IP aware phone network to communicate with Skype users. Only issue here for us is abandoning an actual Skype compatible handset and move over to a headset/mic (no big deal, just an extra cost to consider for us).
Oovoo: video calling, desktop sharing, phone calls, chat and ability to reach landlines or mobile this a possibility for both Mac and Windows users. The video chat features are a free download, but cost more if you're looking for more than 2 participant conference calling.
ooma: of all the systems we've tested, this was our favourite for features and call quality. We especially loved the blacklist option, a community based list system which helps zap unwanted calls. We tested their 1st edition system awhile back and reluctantly gave it back...to return to the less clear, but affordable Skype.
And then of course...there's Magic Jack. But we hope it doesn't come to that.