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What's the most popular video-chatting tool for businesses? Three instantly come to mind: Skype, Google Talk, and iChat/Facetime. Out of the three, Skype has pretty much ruled the business world. It was the first on the scene, it is popular internationally, as well as in the United States, and it's extremely cross-platform - with apps for nearly every imaginable computer and mobile operating system.
Lately though, Google Talk and Facetime have been making inroads, especially the former. Google's version is also available on a variety of platforms and on desktops, it can run through the browser via Gmail - meaning no proprietary software. A poll of TechCrunch readers found that 55.8 percent preferred Skype, while 31.7 percent preferred Google's offering.
That last one's the biggest key for me, personally. Skype's annoyingly bloated software and loud startup noise are the biggest irritants. Plus, Google allows free calling to landlines through your Gmail inbox - handy for when your phone is dead but your computer isn't.
Skype is about to catch up on one of those features, at least. Our growing love affair with Outlook isn't a secret, and once Skype is added, it will be a near 1:1 matchup with Google's offering. (In case you missed it, Microsoft bought Skype a while back for $8.5 billion).
It sure looks handy, and if it works as well as Google's offering, Microsoft and Skype could reclaim any market share that slid to its chief rival.
When Gmail arrived, the masses flocked from Microsoft's horrendous Hotmail offering. When Google Talk arrived, a good chuck of users left Skype behind for the trimmer browser-based alternative.
Since then, Microsoft has played catch-up with the new Outlook.com (fighting Gmail), Office Web Apps (fighting Google Docs), SkyDrive (fighting Google Drive) and buying Skype (fighting Talk). Whichever path today's users choose, they really can't go wrong - both are about equal feature-wise. Plus, competition should, in theory, prevent complacency.
The Skype integration into Outlook is already happening in the UK and is expected to roll out in the U.S. in the near-future. We'll do an in-depth comparison once it arrives.