Apple has issued a new developer preview of OS X version 10.9.2, and it introduces some interesting new features according to 9to5Mac. The most interesting is probably FaceTime Audio, however. Apple introduced VoIP calling (no video required) to FaceTime in iOS 7 on mobile devices, but this marks its first appearance on the desktop.
9to5Mac reports that the new audio calling feature is “integrated deeply” into both the Messages and the FaceTime OS X apps, which presumably means that you can initiate and possibly receive voice calls from each. This is a major development because it essentially completes the picture on Apple providing a full set of over-the-top text, voice and video communication tools across both its computing platforms, bypassing typical network and even device type limitations entirely.
Already since upgrading to iOS 7, and having most of my friends and family do the same, I’ve noticed a lot of inbound calls coming through via FaceTime Audio, and my outbound ones have mostly been the same. Having the option to use it on the Mac means I’ll now be able to field those calls at the desk, seamlessly, if I happen to be there, instead of having to fumble for the phone.
I’d call this a considerable threat to Skype, if Skype didn’t already work on an even greater range of devices. And the crowd that uses Skype isn’t necessarily the same group that would be using FaceTime Audio – ordinary users who’ve never set up a Skype account could easily call friends using FaceTime instead of their carrier’s voice service, given how deeply embedded it is into iOS in general. In that sense, FaceTime Audio could cut off some of Skype’s growth potential, as iOS and Mac users at least who live mostly within the ecosystem won’t be bothered to look around for alternatives.
As with any beta release, 10.9.2 is subject to change before its eventual launch, so don’t count on this absolutely, 100 percent definitely coming through in the final release. Still, it’s a logical move, and one that I’m personally hoping makes the cut.