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All posts tagged Skype

What’s under the Skype umbrella?

Under the Skype umbrella? Let’s take a look and see what’s there, what’s not and what should be.

Instant messaging is a hot prospect in a variety of cases. Users want cross-device support, the ability to do more than just text. How does Skype weigh up since I examined it and offered some strong suggestions four years ago?

The state of the Skype umbrella:

Skype has been evolving, slimming down, experimenting:

Particularly interesting are Skype for Web, Skype integration with Outlook.com and Office Web Apps, Mojis & group video chat …

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With the rebranding last year of Lync as Skype for Business we knew to expect improvements adding to Skype’s competitive advantage including:

Office 365 integration, Outlook and Calendar integration for scheduling, Office Enterprise (E5): PSTN, cloud PBX, group meetings, Skype casting to 10K attendees with polls and Yammer integration.

Microsoft didn’t waste any time on directions for Skype they saw as not delivering on their potential. Some platforms, features and spinoff apps ended up in the Deadpool too:

Skype umbrella - not that Deadpool

No, not that Deadpool. Image clipped from the official trailer.

  • RIP Skype API certain features were deprecated but if you want to build 3rd party solutions on top of Skype then this is where to start. I’ve used Skype URIs to start a chat from an Outlook appointment or task but that is by no means more than the most basic of use cases.
  • RIP Modern UI Skype app
  • RIP Skype for TV in 06/2016
  • RIP Skype Qik

The Warptest POV

Looking back one can ask if this was the app / acquisition that brought Microsoft into the cross platform arena? Since then, it seems that Microsoft has developed an appetite for messaging apps.

First they had MS-Messenger, then there was Skype, Lync, Yammer and now the rumored push to acquire Slack which didn’t move forward.

What should we expect or be asking Microsoft to add under the Skype umbrella?

  1. Right now it seems that Skype, Skype for Business and Yammer have no shared code base. Microsoft are developing three associated products, delivering different solutions under the Skype umbrella.
  2. Skype integration into Outlook and Office desktop (Business or Personal – defined by Office365 plan) but more important integration with Delve and Office Graph.
  3. Slack has managed to gain enormous traction not just through UX but also due to the app integrations they offer. Skype needs to make rapid inroads here.
  4. One-click screen capture: No one wants to click <Windows> + <PrintScreen> then go find the screen capture. If Edge Browser can incorporate this, why not Skype?
  5. Single person tagging in a group conversation that sends an alert / ping just to them. “Hey @Bob, did you finish that quote?” … Bob gets the ping and responds.
  6. Use Office Groups (in personal Office and Outlook.com) to have one click pre-titled group chats, video chats or conference calls.
  7. Record all Skypes: group chat / call (mp3) / video (mp4) and upload to OneDrive or Sharepoint.
  8. Live streaming from in Skype (or a separate app). Periscope is integrating with Twitter, the biggest obstacle to live streaming is psychological, introversion not technology. The use cases for personal and work live streaming are vast.

For Skype to progress, the philosophy needs to be more cloud, more integration and unification of the different solutions under the Skype umbrella. The costliness of maintaining disparate code, teams and other logistics for Skype, Skype for Business & Yammer far outweighs the ROI on making this one product base.

The tighter integration with Office shows that Microsoft understands the holistic part Skype has to play in productivity / collaboration better than say Google+.

As of now, I’m confident Skype is moving in the right direction and I’m giving it a strong Warptest recommendation. How about you?

Skype umbrella - Warptested

Skype Mojis Are Hot…

With their launch of a new, fun feature, Mojis. Skype Announced this yesterday on their Microsoft blog (check out this link for Kermit and Miss Piggy discussing the Muppet Mojis inside). Still, you are probably either scratching your head asking, “What are Skype Mojis?” Or calling in the Spelling / Grammar Police because everyone knows its Emojis…

Skype Mojis - what are they?

Skype Mojis are a way to express yourself using a short movie or TV clip that Skype provides for you to choose, use and send to one or a group of people you are talking to over Skype.

Skype Mojis - where are they?

As you can see above, you can access Mojis by doing the following: –

Skype Mojis - how to use them

When the person/ people on the other side of the conversation get the message, all they do is click on the Moji to play it.

This feature is rolling out already in updates for Skype on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. Whilst this is a fun feature, you’re probably thinking, “Okay cute but so what?”

Monetization 101

If you look a bit closely at this screengrab of a Moji that was sent in a conversation you may notice the cyan text Watch now

Skype Mojis - monetization time

That’s right, Mojis aren’t just cute sentiment indicators, Memes or novel ways of communicating; the person who receives them is one click away from seeing the TV show or movie.

Clicking on Watch now opens a browser window (and in Windows 10 and probably 8.1 the Store app too) with the show / season for purchase or rental in Standard and Hi-definition.

Skype Mojis are a funnel

As the Mojis grow in Skype, more content will be on offer which is viewable on a variety of devices, “plays on Xbox, Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows Phone 8. For offline viewing, download your favorites on Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows Phone 8.”

Devilishly clever huh.

The Warptest POV

In a nutshell those cute, funny Mojis are a great standalone feature but also a funnel. Killer feature Skype.

Now longtime Warptest readers will be aware that I’ve expressed ideas about how Skype should have evolved. Hearing about Mojis and testing this all out led me to the following conclusions: –

  1. I’m sure I’m not the only person asking for this but give us Skype Mojis Maker App. There are memes and clips that work for me: Airplane, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles or perhaps the famous Captain Kirk Khaaaan scream from Star Trek 3. Even if the movie isn’t available making my own Mojis for use in Skype would only increase the wow factor of this feature. This is an app I’d buy.
  2. Okay so I’ve Moji’d you over Skype and you buy the movie and start watching it. Now have Skype open as a sidebar in the movie player (like in Outlook.com) and presto Social TV thru Skype. Maybe I’ll be inclined to buy/rent the same content so I can watch it too and we can chat about it over Skype as we watch.

One question that came up over Twitter when this feature was announced was, why no Windows Phone app? With Windows 10 Phone nearing completion, I have no doubt we are going to see Skype Mojis for Windows Phone 8 and 10. That said, get a move on Microsoft, show your loyal Windows Phone users some love.

At the end of the day, my hat’s off to the Skype team at Microsoft for creating a great, new feature with excellent monetization potential.

So, who’s going to Moji me first?

 

The Messaging App Came of Age This Year…

No vertical seems untouched over the last year by messaging apps of different shapes, sizes and often contradictory descriptions.

Let’s take a look at some of the more memorable or notorious companies and their apps from 2014:

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Why These Apps?

January        Snapchat suffers a data breach which exposed user details in December of 2013 and finally apologized to its users in January of 2014. The company famous for disappearing messages no doubt wished the bad PR could disappear in much the same manner.

February    Rakuten buys Viber for a cool $900 million. Since then the Israeli startup has radically revamped its Windows Phone app with a gorgeous UX and in the last few weeks announced that Viber will be pivoting from Skype competitor into also becoming a social gaming platform.

Facebook, not to be out done in acquisitions closed the deal to buy Whatsapp for an unbelievable $19 billion. Most commentators responses ranged around gobsmacked.

Mark Andreesen started raving about the viral growth of Slack, a workplace collaboration tool built by former co-founder of Flickr, Stewart Butterfield.

June        Kickass Israeli startup Zula announced raising $3million in their series A round. The company has previously drawn the attention/investment of Microsoft Ventures and may just be fielding the A-Team of start-up talents with the likes of founders Jacob Ner-David and Jeff Pulver, CMO Hillel Fuld and a slew of others.

    Zula hasn’t been resting on their laurels, with the Zula Messaging Summit in New York several weeks ago and rumors of a Windows Phone version in the works for their workplace collaborative / productivity app.

July    Facebook closed the faucet for good on messaging from within Facebook itself. It was their separate Messenger app or nothing to the chagrin of many users. In addition, many questioned the need for a separate messaging app with the acquisition of Whatsapp. For now, it seems that Facebook is happy to have both apps and their user bases.

August    Secret became a household app during 2014 (perhaps in response to the revelations of NSA spying, people wanted the ability to maintain anonymity) but in August CNN and others started to report on a security hole that allowed anyone to identify users with relative ease. Secret patched this but the combination of this flaw and the ease with which anonymity seemed to encourage darker behavior led to some users abandoning the app.

November    Microsoft made big announcements about Lync becoming Skype for Business and the start of a by-invite preview of Skype on the Web. This led to a resounding cry of, “About time!”

        With Lync, Skype and Yammer all Microsoft properties in the messaging arena and Skype seeming to be part of the Office family yet neither integrated with Office, the web or One Drive this was welcome news.

December    Snapchat exercised their rights by having all 3rd party apps built on Snapchat taken down from the Microsoft Store for Windows Phone. It is unclear if this signals interest on Snapchat’s part in launching their own Windows Phone app or if they are protecting users from the alleged security compromises these apps often incur. Either way, Windows Phone users are left hanging by a messaging app that seems incapable of communicating with potential users about its intent.

The Warptest POV

These are just the highlights of the year of the messaging app. There are no shortages of use cases, solutions or controversy (in some cases): –

  • Some apps are designed to ensure the user’s anonymity.
  • Some apps are social networks in their own right.
  • Workplace productivity and collaboration.
  • Extending the conversation to include the results of 3rd party plugins e.g. Slack, Atlassian’s Hipchat and Skype all allow integration with Jenkins or other Continuous Integration / Dev Ops tools. Slack has IFTTT and Hipchat has Zapier for interacting with / triggering actions from other web apps.
  • Some apps guarantee your data will vanish after some time and others guarantee the safety and permanency of your data.
  • Some apps are platform agnostic and support all desktop and mobile OS alike.
  • Some apps seem hellbent on remaining exclusive to only Android or iOS.

One thing is for sure, the user has more choice than ever before and doesn’t have to search far to find the best app to suit their needs for personal and business use.

2014 certainly seems the year of the messaging app. What’s next for these apps and what innovations do you hope to see in 2015?

 

Microsoft Ventures Invests In Zula…

Zula, the mobile productivity app. Zula is the combined brainchild of Jeff Pulver and Jacob Ner-David; a solution to the challenge of mobile team communication.

Zula - snapshot of landing page

Zula recently announced the launch of their Android App adding to their existing iOS App.

Can’t We Just Use Email Like Everyone Else?

Email as a team communication solution for productive work is as effective as using one of the existing IM Apps out there.

Even with filters, flags or rules (depending on which email system you are using) emails get lost in the herd. Following threads can be a challenge at the best of times and the ability to find a specific piece of information after the fact can reduce a grown man to tears.

Not using Zula - cartoon

Add to that the tendency of workers to often send attachments and not take full advantage of linking to shared documents / media in the cloud and email is just so pre-Y2K.

Throw Mobile into the Mix

Microsoft Ventures makes a strong point in their press release that Zula are meeting the challenges of mobile productivity with their App. In the past, in fact back in February 2012 I’d made some pointed suggestions about Skype here on Warptest in the hope that Microsoft was on my wavelength.

Things are still happening on that front (albeit slowly), meanwhile Microsoft announced in June 2012 the acquisition of Yammer tagged as the Enterprise Social Network.

Microsoft Yammer Infographic - not Zula

Image cropped from infographic courtesy of Microsoft News

One of the speculations for the $1.2 billion purchase of Yammer by Microsoft was as a foil to Google+. The expectation was that Google+ with Google Apps / Drive and hangouts would become the primary collaborative environment for companies using Google Apps.

Meanwhile Yammer is moving towards full integration with Office365, Sharepoint and Microsoft Dynamics but more importantly has mobile applications for Android, iOS and of course Windows Phone.

The Big Question

So why would Microsoft Ventures invest in Zula, which seems to be a clear competitor for Yammer?

Yammer - Not Zula

The Warptest POV

Putting aside the fact that Google seems asleep at the wheel with selling Google+ as the central hub for collaborative, real-time productivity, it’s important to keep in mind that: –

  1. Whilst Yammer has mobile apps for the platform is it really a mobile-centric or scalable solution? Developing a mobile App for a desktop solution is not the same as creating a mobile-centric solution and if you are going to invest in that then it pays to find the right people to invest in too.
  2. Yammer touts itself as Enterprise that’s all well and good but a solution for smaller companies, offshore and ad hoc projects make sense too. Zula is filling a niche that Yammer didn’t focus on.
  3. The backend: I’ve mentioned before that it’s my belief that Microsoft sees the value in making backend sales as an entry point into company purchasing. As Zula scales with greater numbers of users what will the backend be for its Android and iOS Apps?

IMHO well played Microsoft Ventures for not missing a product or team with huge potential and congratulations to Zula for getting that investment.

So the only question I have right now is,

When do we see the Windows Phone version of Zula? I know I would love to take it for a spin.

If you haven’t tried Zula yet and want to, the links to the two app stores are here.

Windows Phone for Business

Windows Phone Announcements Got Lost…

…amongst the hullabaloo of Steve Ballmer’s One Microsoft corporate realignment memo and the launch (and ramifications) of the Nokia Lumia 1020.

Repeat after me, “Opportunity!”

What Makes a Windows Phone A Business Phone?

After reading the live feed from the Nokia Lumia 1020 launch I ended up asking myself:

If I was the Product Manager for Windows Phone Business what would my feature list be?

This is what I came up with:

Windows Phone - Mindmap

Firstly, excuse the handwriting. Some of the list fell by the wayside for a variety of reasons. As I wrote this my “requirements” were refined by focusing on the use cases: –

  1. Security: out of the box this phone needs to ensure that it isn’t the weakest link in accessing company data.
  2. Active Directory: a’ la Windows 8 “login” should have the option of using the user’s Windows Account login and password. Once you’re in the phone is connected to the company Active Directory.
  3. Remote Desktop: for the serious road warrior the phone has to have built in VPN and Remote Desktop / Remote Control.
  4. Exchange: this can’t just be OWA. Exchange needs to be a robust app with little in the way of functional compromise. The People and Calendar Live Tiles should reflect connection to the user’s Exchange account.
  5. Real Time / Social: Skype should be the Skype Business version with video conference calling and Yammer. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter should be freely available for the user.
  6. Apps: Should the user be able to download any Apps to their business phone? This should be an option for Company CIO’s to choose as policy but more important the company should be able to manage their own in-house App Store with preferred Apps available to enhance employee productivity on the phone.
  7. SharePoint: If you have a Windows Phone (even 7) you have Office and this already allows connectivity to SharePoint.
  8. CRM: Think business, think Dynamics. So yes, Dynamics integration with the People Live Tile, Exchange and Calendar or an App that ties it all together on the phone.
  9. Print to any Company / WiFi printer: self-explanatory.

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The Warptest POV

The biggest challenge is going to be providing businesses with ROI for choosing Windows Phone but more specifically ensuring that just because the Phone is connected to the Company domain that the user can still maintain and access their personal profile without compromise. What’s best practice here? I wrangled with the idea, “It’s Windows (Phone) so just like on a PC make it easy to switch users and thus personal / corporate profile, data and Apps”. I’m still conflicted about the best way to do this; case in point:

The Windows Phone update that will provide these features will contain features that are not business exclusive too. Some users are not going to want the bloat of the business features so Microsoft pay attention here, make the update granular enough to allow existing users to select whether to add the business features or not.

I’ll say it one more time for the boffins at Redmond. This is a huge opportunity to seize a market share not fought over since the advent of Blackberry as the business phone.

Keep listening to your business users about what they need from their Smartphones and make it happen.

What features would make you choose Windows Phone over the competition for your business?

Skype Warptest-ed

Skype, the popular VOIP application has been under the microscope lately. I’ve looked at it on Windows PC, Windows Mobile (legacy but working version), Symbian, Linux and other platforms. Why you ask, mainly because I frequently get asked about it in a support context.

image

As you know in May 2010 Microsoft announced their acquisition of Skype.for $8.5 Billion. Since then the biggest thing we have heard was the news that it will be developed for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. ((Since I began writing this I found way more interesting news about Skype for PC incorporating HD video, Facebook and Bing Bar integration))

As I looked this popular app both as a day-to-day user and as a tester I found it frustrating at times and was hard pressed to put my finger on why.

Great expectations

So I sat down with a tumbler of scotch and mulled exactly was bothering me. I came to the conclusions that: –

  • It hasn’t really progressed from a Desktop Application (even the versions ported to mobile platforms).
  • It is the kid in school who always gets the could do better  and  does not play well with others on their report card.

Perhaps one of the reasons that Ebay and Skype themselves before Microsoft didn’t fulfill Skype’s potential was that they simply didn’t see what they had.

Is Skype simply a VOIP application? Definitely not.

Warptest Predictions or 2 Things Skype needs…

Once again I’m going to indulge in something between predictions and the hope that someone at Redmond reads this and says “”Hey great ideas, let’s hire this guy and run with this”: –

  • Full integration into Windows Live. Skype is at its core a Desktop app but the way to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st Century is to make it part of Microsoft’s cloud ecosystem. Just as a small example, if I send or receive files via Skype the best place to store them as a default location is not the local device I’m using, it’s my Skydrive. For those who don’t favor Live add an option here for Dropbox, Box.Net, Google Apps and that way when it hits Europe you can avoid those pesky EU non-compete suits.

Skype - SkyDrive

  • Turn it into a social media hub. Yes, Skype needs to maintain it’s core VOIP functionality but it already has some Facebook integration. Adding full integration allows a user to also post to Twitter and other Social Networks; VOIP / IM were the natural precursors of the Real-Time Social Networking Revolution so this would be a case of natural evolution. Skype as a Social Networking Hub would open a huge can of whup-*ss on applications like Seesmic or Tweetdeck.

I’m not even going to get into the potential as a commerce or pay-per-service platform that would be well served looking at models like Linden Labs’ Second Life for just how easy an application can make it for their users to pay each other for services or products.

I guess my last question is if Skype should be proudly 100% Microsoft then will I be able to search accounts via Bing and where does this leave MS Messenger?