The ultra-popular Skype VoIP peer-to-peer internet telephony service just got better.
Although still in BETA, they've added a slick incoming telephone service and voicemail. For about $13 US, you can get three months of service and a dedicated telephone number in the US, UK (England), Hong Kong or France regardless of where you live and accept calls from anyone, anywhere directly on your PC. The area code selection in the US is limited (about 30 area codes in most major metropolitan areas), although they are committed to adding more.
(Note: In order to use the SkypeIn and voicemail service, you have to download the new BETA software. As with any BETA software, it's smart to backup your current settings and contacts, although after using it for some time, it appears stable and all functions I tested worked fine.)
Your telephone number automatically comes with voicemail included at no extra charge. (You can also order voicemail separately for your peer-to-peer service when you're not available.) Setting up your voicemail is easy, you can customize your greeting, indicate how long to wait before sending to voicemail and what to do if you are on a call when receiving another.
Since I have relatives in England, I setup a UK phone number and began testing. Had the number and voicemail setup and was accepting calls in just a few minutes. Caller ID worked great on the international number (although this is dependant on what provider your caller uses), call quality was better than my old land line and best yet, I never had to pick up a phone.. just my headset and laptop which I use throughout the day.
Another great use I found for the SkypeOut service is to record conference calls for future reference. Since my schedule doesn't always allow me to listen to calls I'm interested in at the time of the call, I dial into the conference using SkypeOut, and use a little program called Perfect Sound Recorder to record it directly to an MP3 file. I then transfer the file to my Archos MP3 player and can listen to it on the road or when I have some free time. Great combination of technology and it's all digital and easy to manage!
If you need help in getting something like this setup, don't hestitate to leave a comment.