Skype is getting a surprise makeover with improved group calling views, display customization, two camera support and even translation on calls to regular phone lines. Microsoft calls these changes, we’re not kidding, ‘buttery smooth’.
The announcement is a surprise because all the indications have been that Skype is on its way out, being replaced by the video/audio calling features in Teams. Microsoft has talked about little else but Teams for over a year with Skype all but ignored.
Skype has a place
Skype definitely has a place. It’s very well known, especially among the less technically adept. Using Teams is a lot more complicated than the direct calling features in Skype. Plenty of group calls are done on Skype or Zoom to avoid the complications and entanglement of Teams.
The cheap calls to regular phones can be very useful, especially when travelling. Microsoft 365 Family/Personal customers get an hour per month of Skype calls to most landlines.
Now it appears Skype will remain a separate Microsoft service, aimed at personal use. It would be nice if Microsoft made a direct statement about their plans for Skype vs Teams … but that’s not the way they work. Redmond seems to prefer keeping its paying customers guessing.
‘Buttery smooth’ is a new high in Microsoft Hype™ or low, depending on your POV. Here’s some substantial highlights from the announcement that caught our eye.
Skype’s Meet Now lets you make a call or group call to anyone. They can use any modern browser to join the call. No app required, no account required, no login.
Meet Now in Skype is not to be confused with the Meet Now button in Teams.
The invite links are changing to include your name and photo (avatar).
More browsers supported
The announcement says Skype will add “support for all browsers” without giving details which is very strange. “All” browsers is a big claim.
From the accompanying image we infer support for Edge, Chrome, Safari and Opera. No Firefox logo was included.
The presentation for group calls is being updated. Audio-only callers can change their background.
To save bandwidth and screen space, some callers video can be disabled and audio-only callers can be hidden from the main grid.
Skype group calls still have nice features like animated backgrounds, together mode, call recordings and live subtitles.
One call, two camera
TwinCam is a new feature that lets you show a second video feed in your calls. The idea is to include your smartphone camera as an extra camera.
Skype’s Live Translation is really useful for people who don’t share a common language.
It’s currently available for computer to computer calls but is being extended. Calls from a device to a standard phone number (aka PTSN or POTS) will have translation appear on the device.