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Skype 5.8 For Windows Adds HD Video, Facebook Calls

Update also fixes several bugs that affect proxy settings and call duration display.

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Microsoft has released an update to the Windows version of Skype that adds new video calling and social media capabilities to the VoIP client while patching some minor bugs.

Skype includes support for HD video calling, group screen sharing, push-to-talk hotkeys, and a beta version of software that enables users to make audio and video calls through Facebook to non-Skype users.

For full HD calling, update users will also need Logitech’s C920 webcam, which supports HD video encoding internally. An upload/download speed of at least 2 Mbps is also required. Group screen sharing lets users share an application window or an entire screen with conference call participants.

[ Read why Microsoft's acquisition of Skype was a smart decision. See Microsoft's Dumbest And Smartest Moves Of 2011. ]

With the new push-to-talk feature, users can designate a hotkey to toggle microphone muting on and off. Skype officials said this feature was frequently requested by users who play multiplayer games.

The most buzzworthy feature in the new update is enhanced Facebook video and voice calling. The patch, which is still in beta, lets users initiate a video call with a Facebook friend simply by selecting their name and clicking “video call.” The feature works even with Facebook friends who are not Skype users.

The feature is the latest example of a growing but mostly informal partnership between Microsoft and Facebook, under which the two Internet giants are cross-integrating products with an eye to fending off Google in key areas like search and messaging. Last year, Microsoft integrated Facebook “likes” into Bing search results, so that users would see establishments favored by their friends when searching for, say, an Italian restaurant.

Features like Facebook chat and HD calling are already supported in the Skype client for Apple Mac computers.

The update also fixes a number of minor bugs, including a glitch that can prevent the display of call duration when Skype is running in compact mode. Also corrected is a flaw where proxy settings in the Skype client were not disabled when proxy was set using registry keys, and an error that prevented users from adding a phone number to a group that belonged to a Facebook contact.

Windows users can download the update for free directly from the Skype website.

Microsoft completed its $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype in October after gaining clearance from U.S. and European antitrust authorities. The company has said it plans to use Skype technology to integrate VoIP and video calling into a number of products and Internet services, including Office 365, Lync, and Xbox Live.

The Enterprise Connect conference program covers the full range of platforms, services, and applications that comprise modern communications and collaboration systems. It happens March 25-29 in Orlando, Fla. Find out more.

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