Yesterday Microsoft announced that Skype will be updated with new features as the long since forgotten video conferencing application has fallen behind the times. Microsoft which has put most of it's energy behind its Teams app, is finally refreshing the nearly two-decades-old Skype, and quite honestly I'm pondering as to why? Why do we need a Skype refresh? Maybe it's time to put it to bed, as the video conferencing and call app market is oversaturated.
In its release Microsoft promises "an improved, faster, reliable, and super modern-looking Skype." According to the company, the updates are based on user feedback. The seven people still using Skype will be thrilled.
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Skype's upcoming improvements
The first improvement discussed in the release focuses on light. Microsoft states, "we believe we've designed the most beautiful call stage in the world," which is a bold claim for something that looks to be just playing catch up with Google Meet. As the image shows a tiled window grid familiar to anyone who has been working remotely these past 18 months.
Microsoft says, " We wanted to make sure the app still felt familiar while we modernized the look and feel and made the experience more inclusive." The shared images show that the upgrade is very clean and bright, even in dark mode, but it looks like Google Meet. This is fine but, if you're going to update or refresh an application, shouldn't you want it to stand apart?
The company says that the new call stage makes the user a priority, as you will now be able to see yourself in the main view. The other improvement to the design is "a more natural grid, and no one will be left alone on the upper tray again because we bring you all together. All participants— even if they aren't sharing the video — will be visible on the calling stage. Before, if someone shared their screen or turned on Together Mode, the video previews in the top bar were too small to be engaging." sound familiar?
Microsoft is also updating the entire application to improve performance across the device spectrum. There will be a new layout, chat headers, buttons, and group avatars using its Fluent Design UI cross platforms to make the new experience seamless and more accessible to all. To Microsoft's credit, it sounds more functional than Apple's recent attempt to allow Android and PC users the ability to take part in FaceTime.
Another feature that is actually really cool is TwinCam. The new feature will allow users to scan a QR code on a mobile phone as a second camera. The company states, " Now if you want to show off your pet's sleeping habits or need to tutor someone while showing multiple angles, it's as easy as grabbing your mobile phone or whatever device you have handy and scanning a QR code to add it to the call as another camera! We match you with your video stream, and you can impress everyone on the call."
Microsoft's Skype update will include new themes and color schemes featuring more vibrant colors and customizable gradients.
Skype will also feature something the company excitedly refers to as " fancy titles" for when you're putting your group chat together. There will also be a quick call "Meet Now" option that allows users to use the app without logging in, creating an account, or even having the app.
There will also be a Skype Universal Translator, which the company likens to the universal translator on Star Trek. The PSTN translator will allow you to communicate with others who speak a different language via call or video call.
Microsoft Teams has been the company's focus for a while now but, it's nice to see them remember Skype's devoted user base with this update. There is no mention of when the update will be available; however, the release did hint that some of the updates will be available in the latest build.
After my recent FaceTime experience, I may download the latest Skype build and give it a whirl. I think my aunt still uses Skype.
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Mark has spent 20 years headlining comedy shows around the country and made appearances on ABC, MTV, Comedy Central, Howard Stern, Food Network, and Sirius XM Radio. He has written about every topic imaginable, from dating, family, politics, social issues, and tech. He wrote his first tech articles for the now-defunct Dads On Tech 10 years ago, and his passion for combining humor and tech has grown under the tutelage of the Laptop Mag team. His penchant for tearing things down and rebuilding them did not make Mark popular at home, however, when he got his hands on the legendary Commodore 64, his passion for all things tech deepened. These days, when he is not filming, editing footage, tinkering with cameras and laptops, or on stage, he can be found at his desk snacking, writing about everything tech, new jokes, or scripts he dreams of filming.