As I wrote last month, I have become a Skype fan since I started experimenting with the popular VoIP app in January and I now regularly use it for some business calls and one-on-one video calls. The video quality is remarkable (and I've tested a lot of video conferencing software and hardware) and the sound quality is solid as well — although it occasionally has some hiccups and it works best when the person on the other end has a headset. The Skype audio quality also sounds best on Skype-to-Skype calls. The SkypeIn and SkypeOut quality is where I have mostly run into robotic-sounding calls and general fluctuations in audio quality.
However, there is also one other thing that keeps me from using Skype more often — dialing extensions and joining conference calls rarely ever work. The problem is that Skype does not properly emulate the DTMF tones of touch tone phones. When you dial a number on Skype you can switch over to Skype's dialpad and enter an extension number or a conference code. No problem there. But, in my experience, the systems on the other end rarely ever take the extension or conference code. Some say the Skype tones are too short and are not recognized, while others claim that Skype's tones produce echos that confuse touch tone systems. Skype employees claim that the problem is with SkypeOut termination providers. The bottom line is that at least 8 or 9 times out of 10, it doesn't work. As a result, I rarely even try anymore.
If Skype wants to get serious about serving business customers, then it needs to fix this problem ASAP. And make no mistake, businesses are important to Skype, which just opened its skype.biz site earlier this month after realizing that about one third of its users were business users. I've got a separate blog post coming up about Skype's business strategy. For now, Skype just needs to get this resolved if it wants to be a business-friendly service.
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.