Microsoft Revamps Skype, Rolls Out Android Edition

Microsoft this week took the wraps off a modernized version of its consumer Skype communications platform, which the company says it has rebuilt "from the ground up" to support, among other things, intelligent bots.

The new Skype client is now now available for Android phones, with availability for iOS devices coming soon, according to a Microsoft Skype team blog post on Thursday. Windows and Mac versions are slated for release over the next few months.

The revamp applies to the free Skype consumer client that's also now included with Windows. The move is an ambitious push to pick up more mainstream user support by bringing modern communications services to the app. The wholesale rebuilding of Skype fits with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's goal to bring conversational computing to the mainstream.

However, standing out among options from the likes of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook, and even apps that are popular with millennials such as Snapchat, will be challenging.

Images of the new Skype show an entirely new modern interface, which the company proclaims will deliver a vast improvement in how people communicate. The new Skype puts chat "front and center," Microsoft said Thursday when it announced the release of the new interface to Android users.

The new Skype UI.

"We want to help you deepen connections within your personal network," said Microsoft's Skype team. "There's only one of you in this world, so now you can show off your personal style by customizing Skype with your favorite colors. When in a conversation, you should always make sure your voice is heard, or more specifically, your emoticon is seen."

The new Skype interface lets users share their feedback during a chat session or video call by tapping on a reaction icon. Skype also offers a new Highlights section, that lets users create a "highlight reel" of their day with photos and videos. Users can send a Highlight directly to select contacts or groups. Microsoft wants people to use Skype as their canvas to share experiences and communicate more expressively with friends, family and defined groups.

But Microsoft wants people to use Skype beyond simple chat, voice and video communications. The new Skype offers add-ins and bots to provide an "infinitely searchable" tool. A StubHub bot will help find seats for an event and find seating options and pricing, an Expedia bot lets users find travel options, and other bots and add-ins are forthcoming.

Since releasing the new Skype on Thursday, Microsoft has shared some known issues on its support page. Among them are incoming calls defaulting to the speaker phone. Those wanting to switch to earpiece mode should just tap on the speaker phone icon. Skype doesn't allow users to receive SMS messages within the app yet. The translator function isn't available and voicemail is currently restricted to those with Skype phone numbers. For Skype-to-Skype calls, Microsoft said it's not yet supported, but users can sign in to other Skype clients to receive them.

Perhaps the biggest known complaint is that those using the new Skype client with existing phone numbers aren't showing up as being online for other Skype users, an issue Microsoft said on the support page it is resolving. In the meantime, contacts who search for you using your full name in Skype will find you. Until Microsoft resolves the issue, the support page offers a workaround.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.


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