A new report claims that Microsoft is restarting its Skype client efforts yet again with a new project called “Skype for Life.” But that strategy makes no sense, as Microsoft is already well on its way to delivering on its new generation clients on all supported platforms.
“Currently, [Microsoft] has … an excessive number of clients, and what we’re hearing is that Microsoft’s solution is to develop yet another client, codenamed ‘Skype for Life’,” a report in Ars Technica explains. “This one client will be cross-platform, covering not just Windows but Linux, macOS, iOS, and Android.”
Ars further ties the arrival of a new, cross-platform Skype client to Microsoft’s recent decision to close an office in London that housed both Skype and Yammer employees. That is perhaps the most tenuous claim in the post, given that this closing was just one small part of a wider series of layoffs that impacts businesses all over Microsoft.
So here’s what I think is really happening.
Back in July, I spoke with the person directly responsible for Skype, Microsoft vice president Gurdeep Pall. He told me that the firm had almost completed a transition to a new back-end architecture that would be backed by new generation clients across multiple platforms.
“A couple of years ago, we started on a massive engineering project to transition Skype to a cloud-based solution,” Pall told me. “And much of what you’ve seen as new features in Skype, especially over the past year, has been connected to this new architecture.” This includes such things as audio and video chat, file sharing, photos and file sharing, offline access, Skype translator, bots, and more, he said.
As part of the transition, some legacy Skype platforms—like Skype TV—that rely on older P2P technologies would not be upgraded to the new infrastructure. But everywhere else, new generation clients are being deployed.
“All of the recent Skype announcements—Skype for Linux and Chrome, and the Skype UWP app for Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile—are built specifically for this new architecture and show the agility of the new Skype,” I wrote.
“The Skype UWP app is the first major Windows app built in a cloud-first way,” Pall told me. “On Windows phone, it delivers low battery consumption, and on the PC desktop, you get the same feature-rich experience you’ve come to expect from Skype.”
These new Skype clients will no doubt be marketed under the banner “Skype for Life,” because these clients, combined with the new architecture, provide pervasive Skype connectivity, no matter where you are or what devices you use. That, clearly, is what “Skype for Life” means. It’s not one new cross-platform client. It’s a new generation of cross-platform clients. All of which, incidentally, are already here.
“This isn’t an event,” Pall told me, “it’s a journey. People have been seeing the effects of that journey already. Now they’ll know why.”
Folks, this one is simple: Microsoft does not need to restart its Skype client efforts yet again, and I don’t believe it is doing so. Instead, it is simply preparing to start advertising the new clients and their new capabilities to the world.