Since its launch more than 10 years ago, Skype has become the primary tool for making VoIP calls and instant messages. Microsoft scooped up Skype from eBay back in 2011 for a meaty $8.5 billion, and now Skype's co-founder Janus Friis has revealed a new tool that will compete directly with Skype. Called Wire, the service is now available for iOS 8 and above, OS X 10.9 and above, and Android 4.2 and above.
"Skype was launched more than a decade ago. A lot has changed since then -- we are all used to free calls and texting, and we have taken to carrying our computers in our pockets," said Friis. "It is time to create the best possible communication tools, as beautiful as they are useful. Wire is just that."
The company behind the new app revealed on Tuesday that the team is comprised of more than 50 people stemming from Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and Skype. For instance, Jonathan Christensen, Wire's co-founder and CEO, previously held "leadership roles" while at Microsoft and Skype. Wire CTO Alan Duric previously co-founded Camino and Telio.
According to the company, Wire users will be able to share images, YouTube video and SoundCloud music, and they'll be able to do VoIP calling and individual and group instant messaging. The team delivers on its promise to create an app for tomorrow's phones and tablets, offering a beautiful, elegant presentation that allows the user to focus on the communications and media, not the app's interface.
The FAQ revealed that Wire is currently free for everyone and ad-free. That means users can place calls with anyone around the world; all they need is an Internet connection and a friend on their list. Eventually, the team will introduce premium features that will cost money, as well as add support for HTML5, WebRTC and real-time video chat.
To start a call, users simply click on the name of the person displayed in the friends list, and then click on the phone icon. To end the call, users must click on the X in the upper left corner. To transfer the call to another device, users must click on the "Transfer Call Here" button found on a banner flashing on the other device. Free calls require that both parties use Wire.
News of the new VoIP chat client arrives after Skype for Web went into beta last month. The service can now be used in Internet Explorer 10 and up, Safari 6 and up, Firefox, and Chrome for Windows. All Skype members need to do is head over to Skype.com and grab the appropriate browser plug-in.
Prior to that report, Microsoft revealed in October that as part of the WebRTC standard, the company is now supporting the new Object Real-Time Communications (ORTC) API. This will allow Skype users to chat and make calls directly from Internet Explorer without the need for a browser plug-in.