A new major release of Skype's popular voice-over-IP application has hit the web—for Windows users, at least. Skype 4.0 is purportedly the "most distinctive new release in the company's five-year history," and it brings a revamped user interface, audio quality and bandwidth management improvements, simpler video calling, and some miscellaneous tweaks.
The new interface seems to stray from typical instant-messaging clients, since it lumps the contact list, conversations, video conferences, and audio calls in a single window. Skype 4.0 also groups different communication protocols by user, so chat and VoIP interfaces are no longer separate.
If you don't like the giant window, you can switch back to the old multi-window scheme by clicking a button in the title bar. Be warned, though: clicking "Call phones" in that mode pops up a separate window with a giant number pad. Not the cleanest setup in the world.
As for the quality enhancements, here's how Skype describes the updated audio codec in the new release:
The new audio codec achieves wideband audio quality using 50% less bandwidth than previously required. Moreover, it introduces super wideband audio that delivers crystal clear, richer and warmer sound to those using a compatible headset and a high quality broadband connection. The bandwidth manager interacts with the codec to adjust quickly to fluctuating bandwidth conditions to produce the most reliable sound.
You can download Skype 4.0 for Windows right from this page. Mac and Linux users will have to bide their time for now, but they can pass time by checking out the screenshot gallery below.