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Remote working definitely has its advantages. That’s an assertion I can back up with my own experience, not least in terms of my writing for AppStorm. The opportunity to work anywhere within range of a Wi-Fi signal provides wonderful freedom, and the lack of workplace distractions can make a significant, positive difference to productivity.

Not that it’s perfect, by any means. One of the key challenges of employment-by-broadband is trying to work with a team. An on-site employee or employer needs only to get up and walk a few steps to give or receive feedback, share ideas, or simply have a chat at the water-cooler. Of course, those of us who work from afar do not have that luxury. It’s not surprising, then, that there are plenty of video-calling and instant messaging options aimed at suiting the needs of geographically spread business teams.

Whilst no online platform can replace the instantaneous, spontaneous communication available in person, the next best thing, in my view, is a chat platform which works swiftly and efficiently. New beta collaboration service Fleep is aiming to provide just that, together with productivity aids such as file sharing. Fleep is up against some tough competition though (we’re all very impressed with Slack here at AppStorm, for example), but can it shine through?


Microsoft purchased Skype back in May of 2011, but has been rather slow to integrate the communication service into its software. That, however, is beginning to change. For instance, the latest version of Office, 365 Home Premium, comes with 60-minutes of Skype credit and the there is a Modern-UI version available for Windows 8 (its built into 8.1), as well as Xbox Kinect integration, that will likely grow when the Xbox One finds its way to market later this year.

The latest Microsoft property to get the Skype treatment is — the web-based email client that recently replaced Hotmail, regardless if customers wanted it to or not.

The web-based version of the Outlook app produced by the software giant, and trading off of the name of its desktop-based brother, is a much cleaner and sleeker email than Hotmail or, for that matter, Gmail. It has a built-in calendar app and SkyDrive cloud storage integration.

While other features can be accessed from a drop-down menu at the top of the page, Skype is a bit more hidden, and there are some tricks to it.


Telephones are one of the biggest inventions people have tried to one-up, perhaps only seconded by email. Voice calls work fine for most purposes, and most of us increasingly rely on text messages to communicate. But the wheels of innovation roll on, and today, with video-enabled smartphones, tablets, and more, we’re closer to the Jetsons’ world of video phones than ever before.

Video chat seems to be the latest must-have feature to add to your social network or smartphone. We’ve had Skype video chat for years, though with slow internet speeds and slower processors, it wasn’t always such a pleasant experience. Nowadays, though, video chat can be amazingly smooth and clear. Apple’s Facetime makes video chat a quick button-tap away, and Google+ Hangouts proves that group video chat can be incredibly fun and useful. Even Facebook has joined the video calls game, integrating Skype video calls directly in your browser.

Even though video chat can be nice, though, it’s still not as nice as being together. And while you can call your mother without worrying about how your hair looks, you’ll always have to be presentable if you’re calling with video.

So, are you ready to join the Jetsons and make all of your calls with video, or are plain-old voice calls still enough for you? Or have you quit making phone calls altogether, using your smartphone as a text and social network tool instead?

Last week when Google+ launched, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook was going to make a very exciting announcement this week. They recently held their conference and the announcement was indeed big news! On top of some really nice improvements to Facebook Chat, they announced a partnership with another online giant: Skype.

Keep reading to see a quick overview of the new Facebook features, and what they mean for the future of Facebook, Skype, and Skype’s new owner, Microsoft.