Gizmo Project Adds AIM, Yahoo, and MSN Messaging

Gizmo Project Adds AIM, Yahoo, and MSN Messaging

If you're like me, there's a pretty good chance you're wearing pajamas in the afternoon, you've got a pile of gadgets and books blocking your path back to your office door, and you're running three different IM/phone apps to keep in touch with all your contacts. But if you download Gizmo Project, you might just be able to solve one of those problems.

A totally open source Internet phone utility, Gizmo Project is a notably Skype-like tool that lets you make free online calls. It also lets you make very inexpensive calls to landlines and receive calls using a local number for $3 a month. And as of last week, version 3.1 includes the ability to connect to your AIM and MSN (and soon Yahoo, iChat, and Jabber) contacts without running yet another app. It also lets you call Google Talk users.

I've played with Gizmo Project a few times over the past year or two, and there's no denying it's come a long way. Its interface is relatively clean and streamlined, and it offers free voicemail, which is something you won't get from Skype without a fee. But Gizmo's service is best used for personal calls, because it simply lacks the reliability and call quality of Skype. Numerous test calls left me and my callers unimpressed with the multitude of audio stutters, hiccups, and cutouts. Because its premium calling service amounts to $35 annually ($5 more than Skype), Gizmo Project needs to do some serious work on its call quality before it will be a serious contender.

The new IM support could use some tweaking too, particularly in its interface. Rather than give you a sensible menu from which to manage your buddies, Gizmo has you IM a built-in contact, which then IMs you back with instructions for adding buddies. It's a little like playing Zork with your contact list. Once you have the buddies added, you can proceed with messaging as usual, but you won't see their buddy icons.

For my purposes, Gizmo doesn't yet rise to the level of all-in-one communications tool, but it's certainly getting warmer. Go to www.gizmoproject.com to download the app for Windows, Linux, or Mac.

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