Skype 5.0 beta for Mac now available

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Date: Friday, November 5th, 2010, 04:13
Category: News, Software

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Late Thursday, Skype announced a public beta of its client for the Mac. Per Macworld, the new version brings Skype much more in line with its Windows counterpart in both features and interface.

First and foremost, the interface looks absolutely nothing like its predecessor, and entirely like its Windows counterpart, which got the 5.0 treatment in mid-October. Skype for Mac has shed the narrow-windowed “contact list” appearance—a staple of virtually every chat app on the market—in favor of an almost e-mail client approach. It’s a fairly minimal interface that feels all right (but not great) on the Mac.

A left sidebar contains contacts, groups, and a Recent list that displays the contacts you correspond with the most frequently. For the first time, Skype 5.0 for Mac lets you turn on full integration with Mac OS X’s Address Book from the preferences. This means you can finally call, SMS, or IM contacts without first having to go through the process of adding them to your Skype contact list. Users can also open the Contact Monitor, which offers a compact window that is more akin to the style of a thin buddy list that you can keep to the side of your work.

Beyond the major interface overhaul, the most significant new feature in Skype 5.0 for Mac is easily Group Video Calling (GVC), which first arrived in the Windows client last month. Skype 5.0’s group video chat looks somewhat like iChat’s, but unlike iChat, it supports up to ten members in a single chat (which requires that all parties have a minimum broadband connection of 4 mbps down and 1 mbps up). Skype chat is free to use while Skype 5.0 is in beta, but a paid plan will be required once the feature officially ships. There is no word yet from Skype on what GVC’s pricing will be or how it will fit into Skype’s existing price plans.

Skype 5.0 for Mac contains plenty of other new features, though it is still lacking at least one feature of its Windows sibling, albeit one that not everyone will miss: integration of the Facebook News Feed.

The Skype 5.0 for Mac beta can be snagged here and requires a Mac running OS X Leopard 10.5.8 and a 1GHz CPU or faster, though video calling requires at least a an Intel Core 2 Duo 1GHz CPU.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve tried the beta and have any feedback, let us know in the comments.

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