Over the past 12 months, we have tested a variety of video conferencing hardware and software at TechRepublic. My team is somewhat geographically dispersed and so I also do plenty of video calling and video conferencing as part of my weekly schedule of meetings.

I’ve recently been trying out a bunch of free desktop video apps like INEEN and iVisit, as well as the video calling capabilities of standard IM programs such as Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger. The best of the freebies that I have tried is definitely the newly-released Skype 2.0. Previously, Skype did not include video in its ground-breaking VoIP software, so you had to download a third-party add-on if you wanted to do video with Skype.

But now Skype has integrated video into its software with the release of version 2.0, and even though it is a overdue, it was definitely worth the wait. The Skype engineers have achieved the same kind of outstanding quality in video that they previously achieved in audio. I’ve been very pleased by the clarity and fluidity of the video calls that I have done with Skype. In fact, the quality is so good that the only program I have found that compares to it is Polycom PVX, which is a terrific piece of software but it costs over $100 per license.

I haven’t tried Skype for multipoint video conference calls yet, but I plan to give that a shot next week. Stay tuned.