Last year, Microsoft decided to end development of its 'Modern' Skype app, designed for Windows 8, instead launching a new Universal 'experience' for Skype in Windows 10. Rather than developing a direct replacement for the older app, the company decided to integrate Skype functionality into a 'task-focused' experience in Windows 10, spreading Skype features across separate Messaging, Phone and Video apps.
However, that wasn't a popular move. Indeed, the Skype team said today: "We've been listening, and we've heard you."
In response to feedback on its Skype integration in Windows 10, Microsoft appears to be reversing course on its earlier decision, announcing that it will soon release a new Skype app built on its Universal Windows Platform.
Of its original task-based approach, Microsoft said today:
The integration enabled us to give people the fastest path to what they want to do with Skype. We took 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. This approach worked well in research: people saw value in single mode apps that promised a lighter weight and speedier path from intent to completion.
But as it went on to explain, what works in principle isn't always the best solution in practice:
But what we also learned from this feedback is that as the screen size gets bigger—large tablets, 2 in 1s and PCs for example— and you begin to use the apps, expectations shift and people want to limit app clutter. And like that, you once again want an app that lets you do anything you want within the comfort of one window. This is why we are introducing the Skype Universal Windows Platform app.
The first preview version of the new app will be released to those on the Windows Insider Program "in the coming weeks", and will include these features:
- Sign in with your Microsoft Account and link a Skype ID
- Show and change your availability
- See a list of your existing Skype contacts
- Initiate a chat with anyone in your contact list
- See that the other person is typing
- Make one-to-one voice and video calls and send messages
- Personalize your experience with emoticons and Mojis
- Send photos
- See notifications for incoming calls and messages outside of the app
- Participate in existing group chats
In future releases, Microsoft will expand the functionality of the app further, filling in the gaps, and eventually adding new features:
- Start a chat anyone using Skype or not using Skype
- Create a group and send group messages
- Group voice and video calling
- Share your screen, files and video messages
- Manage notifications from individual chats
- And much more (including performance improvements)
The first preview will only be released for Insiders on Windows 10 PCs, but since this is a Universal app, the goal is for it to eventually be usable across a range of devices, including phones running Windows 10 Mobile. Microsoft says that a version of the app will be released for Mobile handsets "shortly".
On PCs, the preview app will - for now - coexist alongside the existing Skype desktop application, as well as the experience integrated into the Messaging, Phone and Video apps.
However, Microsoft adds: "Over time we 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."