Microsoft Announces the New Skype

Posted on June 1, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, iOS, Mobile, Skype, Windows 10 with 60 Comments

Microsoft Announces the New Skype

Today, Microsoft announced a major new version of its Skype app for consumers. The app is available worldwide today on Android and iOS, but it will ship on Windows and Mac soon.

“The new Skype is the best Skype we’ve ever built—inside and out—and it’s been designed to make it easier for you to use for your everyday communications,” the Skype Team writes in a blog post announcing the release. “Now, Skype can be with you for all life’s moments, no matter where the world takes you – on your favorite devices, to smart speakers, and beyond.”

In a discussion with Microsoft last week, the firm positioned this new client as the front-end complement to the back-end work it described last summer and the culmination of over two years of work. It is also quite clearly the realization of the new Skype client (“Skype for life”) rumors from last September.

The new Skype clients have been “rebuilt from the ground up,” Microsoft says. They’re more attractive, for starters, and they understandably adopt features from popular mobile messaging services like Snapchat.

As intriguing, the new Skype also offers an interesting counterpoint to what Microsoft calls the “social capital” issues we see in popular social networking services like Facebook, where many are simply bragging about their supposedly perfect lives. The new Skype, Microsoft says, goes in a different direction.

“The new Skype is not a stage, a corner pub or a coffee house,” Skype corporate vice president Amritansh Raghav told me last week. “It’s a place for more meaningful conversations. The new Skype enables more intelligent communications for your personal network.”

This concept intrigues me because I’ve been wrestling with the messes that Facebook and Twitter—the social networking services I’ve used most often—have become in recent years. Facebook, for example, is now a home of partisan political news stories, unexceptional meal photos, and general life bragging of the type I am just not interested in. Twitter, somewhat miraculously, is even worse: It’s a festering swamp of ill will and disagreement on even the most innocuous of topics.

But Facebook rankles most because this is where I go to learn about my actual friends and family, and other people I really know in real life. And I’ve found the discourse there to be somewhat unbearable and getting worse. What’s missing, for the most part, is the personal connection that attracted me to the service in the first place. Now it’s just noise.

Enter Skype.

“Skype has always been about your most important relationships,” Raghav told me. “And now we’ve built out the communications experience for your personal network. The new Skype is the best way to experience your life together, with the people you really care about. You can connect without the noise of social networks, express your personality, and share in new ways. It works everywhere, on every device, at high bandwidth or low, and at high or low latency.”

It’s also really attractive. The new Skype clients provide a nice balance, as Microsoft claims, between the familiar and the new. It features attractive, bold typography, and crisp and clean layout, and it can be personalized in ways that anyone should appreciate.

Not a fan of the light blue Skype color scheme of old? No problem: The first thing you’re prompted to do when you install the client is to choose a new theme, and the new default theme is a spring-like explosion of color. Not interested in all that color? There’s a stark new black and white theme too. Regardless of what you choose, you will get a more personal experience.

Skype mostly works as before: You can send text-based instant messages, conduct audio and video calls, and can involve groups of recipients as before, of course. But in keeping with its new direction, the client has also adopted some of the features and functionality that many—yes, especially millennials and other youngsters—now expect from messaging apps.

This will rankle some, I think, but I am curiously at peace with it. As we see throughout Microsoft, there’s a transition afoot, and when it comes to this type of communications solution, Skype needs to keep up with what its competitors are doing.

That means adding features that keep the ADD set engaged, like adding colorful squiggles to unread conversations, splashing color everywhere, and offering a simpler UI all around. The camera is one swipe away now, for example, so you can quickly turn an IM into a video call using an interaction method that makes sense on mobile devices.

This modernization also means more interactive elements, like animated reactions, emoticons, and other ways in which you can express your personality, and, yes, potentially annoy others. You can place stickers and text on top of photos and video, because of course you can, it’s 2017.

But there’s also deep integration with Microsoft services like Bing, Cortana, and Maps, and some interesting AI work around bots.

For example, a new, conversational Skype bot called Scoop can be summoned to provide you with news you may be interested in. Powered by MSN, Scoop can help you share a breaking news story with individuals or groups, and because it’s shared in a group chat, anyone can interact with it and find out more. With Scoop, news—and news sharing—becomes interactive. There’s a Hipmunk bot for flights as well.

This type of thing is a good idea, I think, because it brings together what used to be separate activities and tasks and makes them part of a single, cohesive event. Whether Skype users will rally to this future is, of course, unclear, but the concept is solid.

Microsoft has also thought through how communication is changing in this mobile era. You might start a group chat, for example, but not everyone is online at the same time. So the group chat conversation can be viewed as a thread, where people contribute as they can. It’s not a one-way conversation like a typical social media post, where one person posts and others can just react or comment. That is, it’s an actual conversation that occurs over time.

That may seem like a subtle distinction, but it’s not. Using Microsoft’s terminology, Facebook and other social networks provide a stage, where Skype provides a place for more meaningful and private conversations between you and the people you care about. It’s not a public feed, and that is the attraction. (This privacy is also the primary selling point of the SnapChats of the world, too, of course.)

Whether you view the new Skype as fun and fresh or frivolous will depend on your needs and expectations, I guess. I’ve only been able to test this new client on the iPhone so far, so it’s a bit early for me to chime in quite yet. But … I actually like it so far, and I especially appreciate the new look and feel. Will I ever use the fun, interactive stuff? Beyond using it to annoy Brad, probably not.

But as you must know, Skype is an inescapable fact of my daily life. And while I’ve certainly had my issues with the service in recent years, it’s fair to point out that Microsoft has done a credible job of fixing those problems too. With this client, the firm seems to be closing the loop completely and putting a troubled past behind it. This seems like a fresh start to me.

Corrections

This article originally stated that only the Android version of the new Skype app was available today. But the iOS app is available now as well.

Also, this article originally mentioned a Bing Travel bot, which is not actually publicly available. This was an example of what an e-commerce service could build using Microsoft’s bot technologies.

–Paul

 

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Comments (60)

60 responses to “Microsoft Announces the New Skype”

  1. Ron Diaz

    Skype is another product that Microsoft acquired and then destroyed.

  2. Chris Blair

    Will the new Skype help me in my quest to view, send, and manage SMS/MMS messages sent to or from my iPhone phone number from any of my Windows 10 PCs? My friends with Macs can do this easily. What's the best way for us "mixed ecosystem" users to do this? Or is this not possible to do ... yet?

  3. markatcristorey

    I would love it if they put some effort into Skype for Business . . .

  4. Daekar

    I would love to use Skype, I really would. I just can't get my family to ditch SMS. It's killing me.

  5. Brandon Mills

    Copying your competition does not work in a day and age when, in the time it takes to make your copy and get it to market, the market has already decided the victors.

     

    I do appreciate the upgrade, and maybe this will slightly alter Skype's market trajectory, but not by much.

  6. chriswong13

    Don't see it yet on either Windows or iOS. I wonder if they finally got SMS syncing working properly on Windows...? :P

  7. skane2600

    I guess I'm in the minority. All I care about with Skype is making calls. Why do we need dozens of text messaging options?

  8. Jaxidian

    Can this rewritten version play nicely with Skype for Business users or will it still be a nightmare of instability, missed messages, and broken features when crossing that gap?

  9. SvenJ

    "The app is available worldwide today on Android, but it will ship on iOS, Windows, and Mac soon." "I’ve only been able to test this new client on the iPhone so far,"

    Preview?

  10. mmcpher

    I usually don't care for this kind of amped up UI, but the announcement sent me back to skype to take a look and my god! It's like looking at something designed in the '70's! Almost anything would be better. One of the surprising disappointments in moving to Android is how lousy the messaging apps are. So there's that also.

  11. BoItmanLives

    So Android-first and Windows last.. smart move since Android is the new windows.


    But copying Snapchat UI 1:1 is pretty lame and just makes it seem like an also-ran, like everything consumer focused MS attempts in this metro era of suck.

  12. Darekmeridian

    Wow everything old is truly new again.


  13. Waethorn

    Skype already had a "new" app before. What was it called again?

  14. sharpsone

    Skype is my go to for communicating with family. I look forward to the new update on Android.

  15. Alexander Rothacker

    I tried to install it on my Nexus 5 (I know, a bit old). And the play store is only showing the previous version. Looking at https://support.skype.com/en/faq/FA10328/what-are-the-system-requirements-for-skype it appears that the 'new' version is only available for Nougat. What were they thinking? There is a small market share.

  16. robincapper

    Every time I read "integration with Cortana" a part of me dies...


    Where is Cortana for the rest of the world?

  17. rameshthanikodi

    Skype is now shockingly just like the current version of WhatsApp.

  18. red.radar

    "I’ve been wrestling with the messes that Facebook and Twitter—the social networking services I’ve used most often—have become in recent years. Facebook, for example, is now a home of partisan political news stories, unexceptional meal photos, and general life bragging of the type I am just not interested in. Twitter, somewhat miraculously, is even worse: It’s a festering swamp of ill will and disagreement on even the most innocuous of topics."


    I thought it was just me who felt this way. I just want a way to communicate with my family. Not a platform to inject politics and rage into every facet of my life. I hate social media. It has no useful function. I can't think of a good use for it, but we are captivated by our intense curiosity to stay connected to see what our "friends" are doing. If we were less nosy the concept would die.



  19. Mark from CO

    Paul:

    Interesting and something we'll look forward to trying. Just hoping it isn't too late.

    Mark from CO

  20. lvthunder

    So you are going to be using the fun interactive stuff a lot then. :-)

  21. MerlinE.

    I hope they addressed the main reason why I stopped using skype. It is the least reliable at notifications across all platforms. What good do all the new features do when you don't even know you got a message in the first place?

  22. jimchamplin

    If this was being done, why in hell's name doesn't the UWP Skype app reflect the new design instead of the old?

    The real problem is this... And it's really a big issue... Why don't I have it yet!? What I said about the UWP app is partially practical. Why did they waste their time building an app that they knew was already out of date? But it's mostly selfish. I want the new version now.

    But of course the company that OWNS FREAKING XAMARIN for some reason can't release on everything at once.

    • Tim

      If this was being done, why in hell's name doesn't the UWP Skype app reflect the new design instead of the old?


      Or...work well, for that matter. I had enough yesterday and reverted back.

    • prettyconfusd

      Xamarin is great and all, but Microsoft are doing things right and building native apps all around. This is a good thing as it will make the experience better for all users no matter what device they're on.


      Skype really has a lot of work to do since they stupidly dropped Messenger so many years ago so get it in front of the biggest audience on the planet (Android) asap and go from there.


      I say this as a Lumia 950 and SP4 user, too! I chose Windows Phone so I have to accept I'm not going to get the latest things straight away, or possibly ever. If I wanted that, I'd move to Android or iOS, simple.

  23. glenn8878

    I haven't tried Skype for years after they broke it. I will likely try it now.

  24. jhoff80

    They've had a lot of these features in preview for a while and while this seems to be a refinement of that version a little bit, I absolutely hate it. They focused on a ton of useless garbage, and not any of the things that are important. How about not showing missed calls on every device just because I answered it on one? How about adding SMS relay to the Android version of Skype like promised? Or a spam filter so I stop getting messages in Russian?


    You have to have a good primary user experience before you focus on attracting new markets. They haven't lost millions of users over the years because they're not Snapchat, they lost users because they're bad at being a IM/VOIP/video conferencing client. This new version started from scratch somehow does a bad job of being a Skype client AND does a bad job of imitating Snapchat for the millennials.


    And didn't they already fail at this with Qik anyway?

    • alejandro

      In reply to jhoff80:

      I mostly agree with you. I don't really care either way about the gloss of paint and "highlights" but I do want them to make good on the promises they made years ago, specifically fixing the notifications and the SMS relay.


      There are a lot of Qik influences in this product I think.

  25. Ugur

    I don't see FB as as horrible as you do, since i feel like one can tweak it at least a bit to show at least a tad more things one is interested in.

    For example i subscribed to many topic groups i'm interested in and so get updates i remove my likes/unsubscribe from groups that show stuff i don't want to see quickly.

    But i agree on your general stance on FB, i find it fascinating how the business model is sadly making it so much less useful and less nice than it could be.

    I mean there one has the "modern phonebook/timeline" of all friends and family, but since the site makes most money when all share a lot with everyone, well, it automatically favors things posted which rile up many likes or many comments by others.

    And they intentionally downplay the usage as actual direct communication platform, especially on desktop since that's not what desktop fb is about to them. It's a bummer really.


    Regarding Skype: I use Skype for so many years now and it's been tremendously helpful in me working with people from all around the world. Sadly it's not all rosy, basically since MS took it over i felt like it gradually became less reliable. One time great quality in group conversation, the next time dropouts and bad quality despite only calling 1 to 1 and both have a great connection.

    One time video works great, the other time one has to turn it off to at least get the audio properly.

    So yeah..

    Still indispensable to me for work and the new version at least sounds great on paper.

    I like that focus on actual meaningful communication, sounds like at least they got the memo for what it is about and it's strengths.

    I was asked several times over the past few days if i want to try the new Skype when i launched Skype and i always said no (again, new updates over the past few years often made things worse).

    Now i'll at least give it a proper try =)

  26. bbold

    Android first, everyone else second, including Microsoft's own flagship devices and users. Just don't seem right any way you dice it. Sure, some will say that's where the majority of users are. Well, YES. But if Microsoft believes its own devices are superior, and if they value their own loyal base, they should lead by example and make everything immediately available for all of it's own internal device users. This is what any other company would do.

    • Vuppe

      In reply to bbold:

      Google's been known to release new things on iOS before Android. It always has me raising an eyebrow, but it appears to be pretty normal.

    • Kudupa

      In reply to bbold: There is no reason for it to be on Windows first. Windows phone is non existent and people don't use Skype much on desktop. Henceforth android. It will come to windows pretty soon so, you shouldn't take everything negetively.
      • bbold

        In reply to Kudupa:

        I'm not, it just seems weird to me. I do understand they want to be where most of the users are. I understand not including Mobile (yet).. But to not even release the new Skype on Windows 10 PC's first (or even for enterprise) is kind of a shocker.

    • davidblouin

      In reply to bbold:

      Microsoft do believe it's own devices and OS are superiors.

      But the people inside Microsoft actually making the apps ? Not so much.

    • VancouverNinja

      In reply to bbold:

      Its a Trojan horse model at work. You actually want to ensure the massive user base of Android adopts it. Look at some recent announcements - ITunes and Sound Cloud coming for Windows. MS is quietly getting the key apps on the platform now. With this Skype thing - what is Snapchat's move? Ignore Windows still? If MS launches a new innovative mobile device and they have these mass market apps on them users have no barrier to entry. Therefore if they really do launch the next coolest thing to sliced bread Android is the most susceptible to losing market share vs a MS Mobile solution that works across multiple devices. Android just doesn't have this ecosystem to support it.

  27. Kudupa

    I wish they would integrate text messaging within this app. Skype lite does that now but it's unusable as its completely unreliable.

  28. TheJoeFin

    I'm looking forward to this update! I hope they bring these features to all platforms right away instead of some being ahead of others and making an overall confusing experience.

  29. gwydionjhr

    Does this mean I'll be able to "Share to" Skype on Windows some time in the near future?

  30. david.thunderbird

    “The new Skype is the best Skype we’ve ever built—"


    We've been down this road before..................

  31. cacarr

    Does Paul still have fuzzy feelings about this broken pile of stinking, Snapchat-knockoff garbage? If so, few share his view. Check the reviews on the App Store and Google Play.


    Gah! That UI is *terrible*. It shouldn't take someone 10 minutes to figure out how to log out.

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