Among my many Skype adventures and misadventures since I've been testing the world's most famous VoIP program have been making calls with SkypeOut, a feature that lets you use Skype to call standard telephone numbers, including landlines, cell phones, conference calls, etc. I really like the convenience of having all my contacts just a click away from placing a call in the Skype interface, and with a nice USB headset from Plantronics I have gotten solid call quality on most of the outgoing calls I've made (albeit with a few dropped calls here and there).
Skype had been charging a miniscule $0.02/minute for these SkypeOut calls and you had to purchase a credit (usually in $10.00 increments) before you can start making these calls. That was fine with me. I don't make a ton of calls (e-mail is my preferred method of communication) so I only ended up spending about $11 in calls for the first 3 months that I tried using SkypeOut for a lot of my business calls. Even when combined with buying a SkypeIn number ($12 for 3 months), that's a lot better than paying $27/month for Vonage or even $20/month for SunRocket.
However, today Skype announced that the price is getting even better - FREE! In an effort to get more people using SkypeOut and get them hooked on the service, Skype is making all SkypeOut calls from the US and Canada (to phone numbers in the US and Canada) free for the rest of the year. If you haven't already tried SkypeOut, thsi is the time to do it. How can you beat free long distance calls? For telecommuters and mobile workers, Skype is a terrific way to have a separate business line that can go with you anywhere you have your laptop and an Internet connection.
Jason Hiner has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.