Well after a lot of lead up and advance work by the Skype PR Team, the Skype 4.0 beta is due out for testing very soon. I think it looks like the best Skype PC version since the first one...it's got a big screen cinematic like look and feel.
I'm one who uses a Windows PC sparingly and after all the work to get things running right I've decided to pass on installing the beta on the advice of Skype Journal's Jim Courtney who point blank on a video call today said "only install it on a back-up machine."
His logic isn't wrong as a lot of the functionality found in Skype 3.8 isn't quite there in 4.0 yet. What is inside 4.0 though is setting the stage for Skype to be able to serve up ads and even video commercials, a point that never was brought up, but is too obvious to miss. Skype does have a prepared response to that matter I learned earlier today, and smart money says it won't be long before you start seeing context sensitive ads from things like eBay listings inside the browser like full screen window of the 4.0 client.
You can watch a bunch of what 4.0 is about here via the Skype Daily Motion Videos.
The lack of a more polished 4.0 beta underscores the need for a real CTO at Skype. Headhunters and recruiters have been serving up candidates to CEO Josh Silverman, but the prospect of finding many takers is made difficult by the desire to have the CTO based in Tallin, Estonia. While that may seem like a good deal from a cost of living perspective, its location and lack of world class culture makes it a hard place to want to go to work, let alone live if you've spent your life in the USA or Western Europe. That may even be a stumbling block for the front running internal candidate, and likely the most logical choice in my mind, Jonathan Christensen, who is the best choice from inside the company in my book.
For starters Christensen doesn't play ball the eBay way. He's got the chops from his days at Microsoft and the understanding of more than simply seeing Skype as a PC first application. He's also willing to stand his ground. In my book he shows all the things you want in a good CTO. He'd also be a strong counter-balance to CEO Josh Silverman, whose roots are so deep now within the eBay way that as the good field general that he is, should see the need for players with different perspectives. Christensen offers that in droves as he's far from a house "yes" man.
But back to 4.0. As a direction its got lots of promise. As a basis for making new revenue, it shows me that Skype is looking beyond just selling cheap minutes. For now think of 4.0 as a canvas, that's only been outlined. The real version is weeks away and likely will incorporate more feedback from users. That is, if enough real heavy users actually install it. Right now, I'd say..PASS Unless you like to play with Beta software. If you do, you'll get a glimpse of what is coming, and it's worth a look if you're so inclined.
Here are some highlight that might keep you interested:
The Skype Extras are definitely included in the Beta 1 release
Not all the features will be available at Beta 1 – it's rolling out in stages. For example, the Skype Store is not included in this version of the Beta release.
Any features or options not included in this version of Skype 4.0 Beta for Windows are expected to be added as soon as possible, so keep your eye out for additional releases of Skype 4.0 which will have these features added in.