Skype 5.0 beta available for Mac: group calling in, Facebook out

Skype 5 for MacSkype for Mac is slowly starting to catch up with Windows. It was nearly a month ago that the finalized version of Skype 5 for Windows came out, but Apple devotees who need their Internet calling will have to settle with the beta version for now.

Immediately noticeable is the revamped interface, which Skype product manager Krishna Panicker explains, saying, “the new Skype 5.0 is introducing a revamped look and feel that simplifies navigation and provides a more Mac-like experience.” Think a cartoonish iTunes: big buttons and a larger font size.  Generally, all the same features are there, just rearranged.

Skype 5.0 beta for Mac offers many of the same upgrades as it did for Windows, the most significant being group calling. It allows for up to five participants (as long as they’ve also upgraded to the most recent version) and displays all users conveniently in the same window. It’s only available for a 28-day free trial and after that will be included in the premium package.

There’s also a new control bar that stays positioned at the top of the screen so you can end calls, mute, increase volume, etc. You can customize contacts’ profiles as well now, and it’s easier to search through your contacts as well. Like FaceTime, it integrates with your Mac Address Book, but also lets you easily add contacts once within the application.

However, the Mac version doesn’t appear to support Facebook integration, as it does with the latest Windows edition. Instead, it seems as though Skype intends for its use of the Mac Address Book to act as its Facebook client, and lists how you can SMS, chat, and call them through that – exactly how it explained the Windows’ addition of the Facebook tab. The Facebook feature was well-received, so hopefully Mac users will see it included in the final release.

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