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Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

CEO Steve Ballmer speaks during a news conference about Microsoft's purchase of Skype.


Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

CEO Steve Ballmer speaks during a news conference about Microsoft's purchase of Skype.

And the price of admission is dropping — you probably don't need a separate webcam, because they're now being built directly into most new computers and smartphones.

Software giant Microsoft made a monster bet last week that video chats would soon become more central to our everyday Web tasks. It snatched up video call leader Skype for an astounding $8.5 billion.

Video calling has allowed many business executives to compete globally .

"There's not always an option to hop on a plane to meet up with a developer who is overseas or in another part of the country," said Greg Schwartz, CEO of Birmingham, Mich.-based app developer Mobatech.

Video chats have also become a way for many to connect with far-away family members, as seen in many an iPhone commercial.

Here's a look at some of the best options out there for video calls online:


Skype — the undisputed video calling leader — has a new partner in Microsoft. The software giant is hoping to include the power of Skype's Internet-based video and voice calling features into products such as its Xbox 360 gaming console.

While some of the features are pay-only, much of the service is free. One-to-one Skype voice and video calls are free to anyone else in the world with a Skype account and a Web connection.

Group video chats are part of Skype's premium package, which runs $8.99 a month. Skype accounts can also be used, for a small charge, to call traditional cellphone or landlines.

The Skype service can be used on any Web-connected Mac or PC computer and most smartphone platforms.

Skype video calling is not available on most Android phones, but has been unlocked on some. Video calls can be placed using any iPhone and iPod Touch with a video camera.


FaceTime is Apple's platform-specific video calling solution. Free video calls can be placed on the iPhone 4, iPad 2, iPod Touch or Apple computer to any other user with the same.

The service accesses a user's address book and builds a list of email addresses it knows are on the service. To place a call, users click the person's name and a call goes to their Apple mobile device or computer.

In true Apple style, it's a service that's very limited but also very slick. Group video calls or voice-only calls are not possible with FaceTime. The service works only on mobile devices that are connected to WiFi.


This service is probably the most fully realized Skype competitor out there. The biggest advantage to ooVoo is the ability to place a group video call with up to three participants for free.

Users can also share documents and show their computer screen to the group, making this a great tool for small businesses.

The service is available on the Mac and PC, several Android phones and ooVoo says a mobile app for the iPhone 4 and iPad is coming soon.

Google Video

Given the sheer number of Gmail users, Google's built-in video chat solution is a convenient option for millions.

Right inside the popular email service window is a list of users on the chat service. Video calls can be made between Google chat users that have webcams. The service also allows for voice-only, text-only and one-sided video chats.

Google Chat also allows for free calls to any phone number in the U.S. with the service until 2012.

The Google video chat service is largely unavailable on Google's own line of Android smartphones, but a slow roll-out is in the works.


Perhaps the best-kept secret in mobile video chat, Tango allows smartphone users with either an Android device or Apple iPhone to make video calls between each other.

It's a free app download on both platforms and it allows for video calls over either WiFi or the phone's 3G data connection.

Call quality is definitely better over WiFi, but it's a slick solution if you have to make frequent video calls to users of both platforms.


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