Apr 07 2016

Microsoft Reverses Course, Will Build Unified Skype Application for Windows 10

After breaking out functions like video and messaging into separate apps aimed at mobile users, Microsoft is bringing those back into one Skype app.

Microsoft is making Skype whole again after splitting it up into separate apps for features like video calling and messaging, in a bid to appeal to mobile users. Late last month, though, the software giant said it would change course.

Now Microsoft says that desktop PC, notebook and tablet users want a more unified app in one window, so it’s going to bring all of the functionalities together in one Skype Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app, which users will be able to access across all Windows 10 devices.

Unifying Skype Into One App

As TechCrunch notes, up until last fall Microsoft had both a traditional desktop app for its Skype messaging platform and a “Metro/Modern” version that worked in full-screen mode on devices. In October, Microsoft killed off the Metro version, and in November, it unveiled stand-alone Skype apps for video calling and messaging, as ZDNet notes. Microsoft started conducting a consumer preview of those disparate apps.

In a company blog post, Microsoft’s Skype team writes that it wanted to take “advantage of the mobile paradigm with one app per task, such as the Phone app, Maps app, and so on. With this in mind, we released built-in, task oriented apps.”

In surveys and research, Microsoft says that consumers liked the approach because it gave them apps that could let them easily do the one task they wanted to do.

Yet for devices with larger screens, like tablets, two-in-ones and PCs, Microsoft found that “expectations shift and people want to limit app clutter.” So Microsoft decided to introduced the new Skype UWP app and built it from the ground up.

“We wanted to learn from integration and improve on the current Skype app with new experiences. We’ve simplified the look and feel by removing duplicative and unnecessary menus to prevent confusion between them,” the company says. “The global menus are now in a new, single Settings menu, and you’ll see contextual menus appear in upcoming releases.”

The Next Steps

The universal Skype app, which is available to Windows Insiders, or testers of Microsoft’s apps and platforms, should appeal to desktop PC users and to companies that have embraced Windows 10.

The app will have popular features, like the ability to let users sign in with their Microsoft accounts and link Skype IDs, show and change their availability, see lists of their Skype contacts and start chats with anyone in their contact lists. In time, Microsoft plans to add “more flexibility, sharing and group features,” including the ability to chat with anyone using Skype or not using Skype, create a group and send group messages, and do group voice and video calling.

Users can continue to access the existing Skype app on Windows 10 PCs, Microsoft says, adding that over time, it “will streamline all Skype for Windows 10 experiences into the Skype Universal Windows Platform app, but we’ll do this in stages — first ensuring we release a fully featured, high quality and lightweight application by gathering your feedback and monitoring its performance.”

According to ZDNet, the separate Skype apps for messaging and video chat will still be available for Windows 10 Mobile users. Microsoft says the new unified Skype app will first come to PCs and then to Windows 10 Mobile devices.