Skype recently added a service that lets you talk to non-Skype users, but it isn't free. Skype, now in version 1.1, still lets you make free PC-to-PC calls to other Skype subscribers. But you can now add money to a SkypeOut account that will let you call any number in the world, whether it's a landline phone, a cell phone, or a VoIP service phone such as Vonage or CallVantage--at low per-minute rates. It works the same way as the free service: You use the same interface, but instead of choosing another Skype user from the contact list, you enter a number to place a call. And you use a headset or a microphone and speakers connected to your computer as you would with the free Skype service.
We weren't overly impressed with SkypeOut. Some calls sounded so bad, we had to hang up and try again, and others were dropped after a few seconds. For the occasional international call, SkypeOut is worth trying since there's no activation fee or contract. We doubt you'll find the service dependable enough, however, for everyday use. But convince your friends and family to download Skype on their end if you can, and you can chat for free for hours on end.