Using Skype – Voice on the Web http://voiceontheweb.biz Facilitating Personal and Business Conversations Across a Voice 2.0 World Thu, 01 Jun 2017 17:02:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Facilitating Personal and Business Conversations Across a Voice 2.0 World Using Skype – Voice on the Web Facilitating Personal and Business Conversations Across a Voice 2.0 World Using Skype – Voice on the Web http://voiceontheweb.biz/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://voiceontheweb.biz/category/skype-world/skype-ecosystem/using-skype/ 103460194 Experience Skype to the Max: 2nd Edition http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/experience-skype-to-the-max-2nd-edition/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/experience-skype-to-the-max-2nd-edition/#respond Tue, 17 Mar 2015 11:47:27 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=11150 So why has the widget in the Voice On The Web sidebar changed recently?

Experience Skype to the Max, 2nd EdtionAugust 2012 and I self-published Experience Skype to the Max, an Amazon eBook that pulled together all my experience of the previous six years using, and blogging about, Skype as my primary real time communications application on PC’s and mobile devices as well as the hardware that supported Skype.

Last spring I was approached by Apress, a division of Springer – one of the world’s largest publishers of technical books, about authoring an updated version. Today I am pleased to announce the publication of Experience Skype to the Max, 2nd Edition through Apress.

In the intervening three years, Skype has made several updates, offered new features and migrated its back end infrastructure onto Microsoft’s Internet Messenger servers including:

  • Video messaging – leave video messages up to three minutes duration
  • Chat message buffering – if you leave a message for a Contact who is not online, the message appears when the recipient comes back online (within 30 days)
  • Significantly improved support for Skype on mobile devices including:
    • the launch of Skype for BlackBerry 10, Skype for Windows Phone 8 and Skype for Amazon Fire
    • significant reduction of the impact of Skype on device battery life
    • deeper integration of Skype for iPhone, taking advantage of iOS 8’s notification features.
    • Skype for iPhone hosts up to a four-party group voice call.
    • a more consistent user interface across all mobile devices: Recent, Favorites, People
    • support for HD (720p, 1080p) or quarter HD (960 x 540) video resolutions
  • New file transfer interface – when a file transfer is made, it appears in the chat panes of both the sender and recipients as either a graphic or Office application icon. Click on the icon and it either opens in your default graphics or appropriate Office application (except on iOS devices). It’s also stored on the back end servers for later recall. This one merits a separate post.
  • A new user interface on Skype for Windows Desktop and Skype for Mac which has had a mixed reception. Frankly with a few changes to Options, outlined in the book, I actually am very comfortable with this new user interface. However, I do have a couple of other issues with it; this also merits a separate post.
  • Integration with Outlook.com, Outlook and Office 365 (Word, PowerPoint) document collaboration.

On the other hand there have also been some other changes, the most notable of which is the Skype Shop; users are now directed to Chat and Vision’s shop. At the same time Skype’s hardware certification program has been discontinued as most native PC and third party audio and video hardware today supports Skype’s “SILK” superwideband audio and HD video.

One other major change has been the significant reduction of support for third party applications due to reduced API support under Microsoft. Only call recording utilities (Pamela, Call Recorder for Skype) and support for various TV sets, as well as TelyHD, remain. On the other hand the entire nature and modus operandi of customer support via call centers is changing with the evolution of usage of both chat and WebRTC-based offerings; Skype changes how users participate in customer service operations.

During this time several new players have emerged or matured on the IP-based communications front:

  • Facetime, provided all participants are on an Apple device, has developed a significant following.
  • Google Hangouts has become a standard for video conferencing
  • Wire, developed by some former Skype employees, has recently launched with an interesting new, but far from complete, feature set.
  • WhatsApp has certainly proved the case that people prefer chat because you can carry on multiple conversations simultaneously and asynchronously but it only works on one mobile device along with a web browser app due to its reliance on a phone number as the unique identifier.
  • BBM, with over 140 million users, has its own set of unique features such as building a group picture library and supporting the hosting of group video calls from a mobile device.

However, none has the comprehensive feature set of Skype; the last chapter of the includes a list of questions to ask when evaluating new offerings and Skype’s changes as well as a discussion of the potential for the invocation newly emerging technologies such as WebRTC. And then there’s the Directory issue that Dan York has articulated so well; having 300 million Skype users was one justification Apress used for proceeding with this project.

Personally I continue to use Skype as my primary real time communications offering in my home office for both business and personal communications. It’s so handy to just pick up a headset and launch a conversation, including to landlines, on my PC or smartphone as a matter of convenience. Both voice and video quality have improved with respect to robustness and reliability over time maybe it’s due to my high speed (60 down/10 up) Internet connection and/or my desktop PC configuration. I continuously encounter users who rely on Skype for their everyday activities, especially when it comes to business operations and keeping in contact with friends and family spread out worldwide.

Working with Apress, Experience Skype to the Max, 2nd edition will have both a print (black & white) and an eBook (colour) version, available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble and other eBook platforms. In addition they have other marketing programs, similar in concept to Amazon Prime, on both Apress and Springer that encourage much wider spread adoption of the book.

Involving editors and logistics personnel in London, New York, Bay Area and western NY state, the entire production of the book was executed using Skype (95% being chat) and Sharepoint. Print editions are created using Print-on-Demand services, including Amazon’s CreateSpace. Overall the experience of this project is one more example of how the Internet can radically alter and disrupt a business model, in this case, book publishing.

Special acknowledgement needs to go to Gwenan Spearing at Apress London as the Acquisitions Editor, who championed production of the book and who was also Lead Editor critiquing the content, and to Christine Ricketts at Apress New York who, as Coordinating Editor, kept me sane while managing all the logistics aspects. Greg Kettell, as Technical Reviewer, also helped enrich the content through his comments and feedback.

With the completion of this project I intend to return to more frequent blogging. Not only has lots changed on the IP-based communications front but also mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

So it’s time to head on over and order your own copy. Reviews are much appreciated.

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BlackBerry 10: My European Travel Companion(s) http://voiceontheweb.biz/featured/blackberry-10-european-travel-companions/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/featured/blackberry-10-european-travel-companions/#respond Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:51:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10999 BBZ30.EuropeScreen.450pxOver a recent 24 day period I traveled through eight countries, providing an opportunity to determine the level of access and travel support I could get from my BlackBerry 10 devices (a Z30 and a Z10). I also had available an iPad Air and an iPhone 5; however, they quickly became ancillary to my activities.

We visited England to attend a long time friend’s memorial service, participated in a two week river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest (Rhine, Main and Danube), and spent three days in each of Prague and Munich.

Why two BlackBerry 10 devices?

My Z30 is my primary mobile device when in Canada; its configuration is such that I did not want to lose any of the its features and application set. In addition to about 160 native BlackBerry 10 applications it also contains about 35 Android applications that have been downloaded and installed via Snap, a free Google Play client for BlackBerry 10. It contains a Rogers SIM that was put into airplane mode for the duration of the trip except on two days where I wanted to test out Rogers roaming.

Z10MobileHotspotThe Z10 served fundamentally as my Internet access point. Why? Because I had been asked to review the recently launched Truphone World SIM that provides carrier voice and data access in 66 countries on a single plan, including eight countries in the Truphone Zone. I put the Z30 into airplane mode and connected to the Internet through the Z10 or other WiFi access points such as on the ship, in a hotel or at a restaurant.

Of the eight Truphone Zone countries we traveled through four: a U.S. hub airport, U.K, The Netherlands and Germany. In those countries I could use BlackBerry 10’s WiFi access point feature which provided an Internet connection to my Z30, iPad Air and iPhone 5 – all of which remained in Airplane mode during the entire trip. It also provided connections to my wife’s Q10 and iPad mini.

In the four Truphone World countries outside the Truphone Zone (Austria,  Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic) the ability to create a WiFi access point via carrier data was disabled; however, the Truphone World SIM on the Z10 could still deliver voice and data for the Z10 itself. In these countries WiFi access came through our ship’s WiFi, a hotel, restaurants and the free WiFi found in the centre of several of the cities we visited.

More details on my Truphone World SIM experience are provided in a separate post. In that post I’ll also discuss how European carriers still have a lot of work to do in providing higher speed coverage outside major cities and towns. Often I would only find 2G/EDGE service whether using the Truphone SIM or, in a couple of test cases, Rogers roaming where we could get LTE in the cities but only 2G/EDGE in rural regions.

In the remainder of this post I want to cover some of the activities for which I used the Z30 and, where necessary, the Z10.

The Hub

With this setup I continued to receive and send messages via the BlackBerry Hub – not only two email accounts (MS Exchange and GMail) but also Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and FourSquare. With Rogers One Number service I could access any text messages sent to my Z30 via the RON application on my iPhone 5 or iPad Air (and also send out SMS text messages).

The Markers

Over the course of 24 days one can start to lose track of where you have been and what you saw. Two programs helped to provide trip markers that I could reference once I returned home and started editing my 3,000+ pictures into a reasonable presentation: FourSquare and Untapped. Suffice it to say I now have 70 new checkins and 47 new photos on FourSquare along with 14 new distinct beers on Untappd.

Untapped.4Sq.Europe14

Note: the Budweiser Budvar is the original Czech beer; suffice it to say they have sued the U.S. company for intellectual property infringement. Pilsner Urquell is the original Pilsner beer brewed in Pilzn, CZ; it was originally brewed in 1842 to address a problem with long term storage of beer..

BBM: Sending “postcards” daily to all members of my family in a single step

BBMCourtneyGroupIn the past one might mail a few postcards to family members, say, once a week during a trip such as this – and often they would arrive at their destination after we returned home. Plus you had to find a way to buy stamps and a mailbox. With a BBM Group that comprises my family members I was able to send a daily “postcard” comprising a photo and some text commentary in a single action from any location with an Internet connection.  Basically I found a suitable Z30 photo amongst those taken on a particular day and, using Share options, would simply send it to the Courtney Group on BBM. Occasionally these entries would result in engagement with some follow up text conversation.

For instance, as we sailed into Budapest late in the evening, we were treated to a light show of all the buildings along the Danube – parliament buildings, palaces, university buildings, museums, etc.  This experience turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. In almost real time and with a single action we were able to send a photo of the Hungary Parliament Building lit up at night to my family members.

Social Networking

Often my FourSquare and Untappd entries would be forwarded to Twitter and Facebook. But, of course, I was also able to engage directly with friends’ entries on Twitter and Facebook. I certainly checked Facebook at least daily to follow what others were doing; surprisingly two of my acquaintances were also on trips to England and France during our trip; they also provided some interesting and relevant Facebook commentary. I was also able to follow LinkedIn activity but provided no entries as i was really on a vacation and did not feel the need to participate in business-related discussions.

News and Sports

During our trip we were able to track major news events via various BlackBerry 10 News apps (Globe & Mail, New York Times, CBC News and CNN). We were also able to follow activity involving the World Cup, Wimbledon Tennis and the decline and fall of the Toronto Blue Jays from first place in their division. Weather Eye kept us informed of the daily local weather forecasts. Of course I was also able to keep up to date on BlackBerry and other personally selected activity via BBM Channels. The XE Currency BlackBerry 10 app came in handy for doing conversions involving the Euro, the Hungarian Forint and Czech Crown.

Music

The memorial service in England was for a long time friend and mentor with whom I had produced a music record back in the 60’s. I had copied the tracks to my PC and subsequently transferred the files to my Z30. At the reception following the service i was able to play a couple of the pieces as a tribute through my BlackBerry Mini-Stereo speaker – which had enough volume to easily be heard by all attendees across the medium size hall.

Maps

During the trip I often used either BlackBerry Maps or, in the browser, Google Maps. When we arrived in Amsterdam at Amsterdam Central Station we needed to know which tram would take us to the Rijksmuseum. We quickly got the answer in Google Maps to look for tram 2 or 5. When we had to switch ships between Nuremburg and Passau due to low water levels on the Main-Danube canal, BlackBerry Maps told me we had a three hour trip; not the two hours mentioned by our tour guide. As long as I could get 3G service on the Z10 we could usually locate our ship location as we passed through locks or mountain valleys.

MunichHotelMap

When an acquaintance wanted to locate my hotel in Munich I simply used BlackBerry Maps to capture our location (near the main train station on Bayerstraße) and sent him a BBM message with the screen capture.

Voice Calling

Since Truphone World plans include voice calling I made several voice channel calls back to Canada as well as to contacts in England and Germany. The clincher was a call where I had wait 50 minutes to rebook my Air Canada reservation for our home bound flight due to a connecting Lufthansa flight cancellation – we ended up on a non-stop flight that brought us home one hour earlier than our original reservation. (It was 1 a.m. in Montreal when I made that call; that probably speaks volumes about the reason for the long wait).  Over Truphone World’s data channel I also made a few SkypeOut calls. In all cases I had excellent voice quality. I was also able to follow several Skype chat threads during the trip via Skype for BlackBerry.

Photos

While my primary camera was a Canon SX40 with telephoto capabilities, I often used the Z30 camera for photos that I wanted to include with BBM (Group) messages, FourSquare, Twitter and Facebook entries as well as emails or Skype file transfers. It was convenient to be able to take the photo and then simply “Share” the photo immediately to my destination of choice.

The BlackBerry 10 Touch Keyboard

GermanKeyboardAs I occasionally went back to using the touch keyboard on my iPad Air and iPhone 5 I was constantly reminded of the power of the BlackBerry 10 touch keyboard. In summary I probably typed about 25% of the characters I sent due to the powerful predictive text feature. For caps I simply held on the key until I saw a cap; no Shift key required!

However, being in Germany and having familiarity with the German language, I had also activated the German keyboard. Holding down a letter long enough also gave me the option to select characters with the umlaut accent or the Eszett (ß) “double s” character.   And if I typed “Mü”, predictive text would suggest München whereas typing “Mun” would suggest Munich.

Usually if I had entered a local name once in either language it would appear as a suggested word the next time I wanted to use it after only typing the first two or three characters. This often helped when I wanted to type a word ending in either “berg” or “burg” and not recalling which was correct.

OK, so why the iPad Air and iPhone 5?

Fundamentally the iPad Air, with the Logitech Ultrathin keyboard, replaced my need for a laptop PC. I used it for longer email messages and responses; while I had brought my recently upgraded MacBook Pro, it never left its case during the trip. The iPad Air also served to receive photos from the EyeFi Mobi card on my camera via the card’s WiFi access point. (Clumsiest tourist activity witnessed on the trip: taking photos with a 10-inch iPad – any version.)

As for the iPhone 5, the only use I made of it was for panorama photos of some of the spectacular plazas, cathedral interiors and scenery we encountered during our travel. Yes, there is a 360 Panorama app for the BlackBerry 10; however, it does require post-photo editing to crop it down to a rectangular format; hopefully we will see a panorama mode in the forthcoming BlackBerry 10.3 OS.

Prague.OldTownSquare

Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic

Bottom Line:

This 24 day trip provided an excellent opportunity to check out the versatility of the BlackBerry 10, especially the Z30 as a primary mobile device across eight countries. Where there was not an application, the browser usually provided the access and information we were seeking out (Google Maps is a primary example); responsive design and HTML5 contribute significantly to this capability. Did I miss anything? … probably not. My Z30, assisted by my Z10, served all my communications and Internet needs to capture travel activity, maintain communications via voice, email and social networking and deliver news, sports, reference and other information on request.

With all these features – predictive keyboard, excellent display, very powerful browser, messaging integration, BBM, excellent music audio, the browser Reader feature and most importantly the overall productivity benefits – going forward I expect to travel only with my Z30 and iPad Air to keep connected as I travel.

Inside BlackBerry: Why I Still Sell BlackBerry: Tales from a Smartphone Sales Rep

Some Android applications used: TripIt, Yammer, Starbucks (but they would not take my Starbucks Canada card in Prague for payment), PayPal, Flickr, Kayak, National Post, FIFA World Cup, National Post, Würzburg Tourism, British Airways (LGW-AMS)  and Marriott. Other Android apps installed but not used include NetFlix (the ship TV had lots of movie choices), Instagram (just not into it), Harmony TV controller (only works in my family room), IMDb, MailChimp, Event Brite and WestJet amongst others.

Full disclosure: The BlackBerry Z30 and Z10 were provided to the author as a member of BlackBerry Elite, a group of BlackBerry users who provide user feedback to BlackBerry and assist with evangelizing the merits of this unique multi-tasking smartphone platform (but we don’t have any advance information on upcoming OS developments). There are no affiliate links in this post, nor has there been any monetary compensation provided for publishing this post. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author who does have a very small holding of BlackBerry shares and decades of business experience with multi-tasking environments. His main interest is in supporting a Canadian technology pioneer while at the same time getting maximum benefit from his smartphone.

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Reflections on BlackBerry Live http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/reflections-on-blackberry-live/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/reflections-on-blackberry-live/#respond Thu, 30 May 2013 13:24:43 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=10142 Two weeks ago I was in the midst of BlackBerry’s annual conference, renamed BlackBerry Live to reflect the spirit of rebuilding a brand to its former addictive levels of adoption through an innovative communications and information platform. Some of my lasting impressions:

A Positive Energy

Overall the event had a positive energy about BlackBerry’s offerings. BlackBerry employees were highly motivated and enthusiastic about both their accomplishments of the past year and the future direction of BlackBerry. Basic to BlackBerry’s ongoing recovery is employee morale; it was infectious on all those attending. Having real product to work with and talk about contributed to the overall positive, upbeat environment.

The Partners

Meeting developer partners impressed upon me the drive and motivation that are bringing about some unique and productive applications. Most impressive was meeting Hisham Hassan Bakr, an Egyptian developer who, in the course of all the political turmoil in Egypt over the past couple of years, came up with a unique application, AIO Remote – a native app that lets you control your computer remotely from your BlackBerry® 10 device with a comprehensive set of features, (including a touch pad for my Windows 8 “Modern” operations?). He covered a lot of bases with this unique application; only time and usage will tell. But there are many more like him around the world, including Jonah Lin, representing Mmmooo.com, China’s largest mobile applications publisher, who are participating enthusiastically in the developer program.

Without the enthusiasm and motivation of these tens of thousands of developers, BlackBerrry would be nowhere. Now their challenge is to create unique “must have” applications that take full advantage of BlackBerry’s developer platforms and BB10 operating system.

The Sessions

Over the course of the event I attended several sessions; in all of them I learned valuable information about BlackBerry programs, such as Built for BlackBerry, Event Driven Processing for Applications (headless BlackBerry), how BBM can be leveraged as a marketing tool for applications and BlackBerry in healthcare.

With a personal interest in healthcare processes, due to my own recent personal experiences, my previous client base that involved healthcare applications and my two sons’ involvement as medical professionals, the two healthcare sessions provided a window on how BlackBerry, and especially the features of BlackBerry 10, can be leveraged to drive efficiencies into patient care and monitoring. Suffice it to say between privacy issues and the emotional attachment to healthcare, these tools overcome many of the communications barriers and overheads inherent to healthcare processes. More in an upcoming post.

CrackBerry Live

Yes I did an interview on CrackBerry Live but, much more importantly, the CrackBerry team’s presence at BlackBerry Live has created a significant archive of the players and ongoing activities in the BlackBerry ecosystem. Interviews with BlackBerry executives and third party developers; commentary on BlackBerry’s announcements and more. Check it out if you want to get the real vibes that were coming out of the event.

CrackBerryStaff CrackBerryLive.Podcast

 

BBM on iOS and Android

Perhaps the most significant and controversial announcement was the forthcoming availability of BlackBerry Messenger on iOS and Android devices. From my perspective, it’s not about exclusivity to one platform but rather making an application available to as broad a public as possible that bodes for success in today’s Internet-enabled world. In my own business career, I never encountered a situation where an element of exclusivity, in any form, worked in the long run.

In the end it’s about building networks of friends, colleagues and partners for both synchronous and asynchronous communications across a BYOD world. Personally I feel BlackBerry needs to add BBM clients for Windows and Mac PC’s; while certainly taking on more limited roles in the Internet space, PC’s still have a role and are by no means going away. More in a future post but it will be interesting to see how this expanded access plays out in reality.

BBM Channels

It was while attending my first or second CES five or six years ago that I realized the value of BlackBerry Messenger. It was the most reliable means of instantly communicating with key colleagues in what was the very “noisy” environment and confusion of CES. Chat mutes the background noise of voice calls; over-the-top chat also overcomes the saturation of mobile voice channels. In those days BBM was a build out of PIN-to-PIN communications inherited from the days of being an enhanced pager. Its one limitation was that I only had about 50 contacts accessible but it pushed a message through on demand in the true sense of the word.

Building on today’s success of BlackBerry Messenger as a chat/voice/video personal communications platform, BBM Channels introduces an innovative social networking aspect whose role will be determined by its ultimate feature set and acceptance as a “must have” user engagement channel. To date it seems to be playing out as a “back channel” where hosts can put out background or complementary information to what is being delivered across the legacy social networking channels such as WordPress and Facebook. Will the fact that over 10 billion messages are delivered daily for 51 million users, with most of them being responded to within 20 seconds, play a role in determining its uniqueness?

For those who are using the beta, the Voice On The Web Channel PIN is C0004ABB2.

BlackBerry Q5

BBQ5.3ModelsWhen I was in the scientific instrumentation business, my employers had a product evolution process of creating initially a high end instrument with all the bells-and-whistles the scientific research community would request.  With the experience and feedback generated through these offerings, they would then develop a line of lower end products that allowed scientists to perform the majority of the experiments for more routine clinical analysis measurements at a significantly lower cost. The BlackBerry 10 devices, Z10 and Q10, certainly represent a high end mobile computing platform with all the bells-and-whistles for supporting real time and asynchronous communications, social networking, web browsing and third party applications.

On the other hand the newly announced Q5 brings the feature set of the BlackBerry 10 Operating System to a lower cost hardware device. Incorporating the Hub, the world’s fastest smartphone browser and access to BlackBerry 10 applications, the compromise comes from the processor (dual core, 1.2GHz SnapDragon), the keyboard design, 8GB internal memory, no battery access, LCD Display and a lack of external connections such as the HDMI port for viewing on any HDMI-enabled display.  There is a slot for a 32GB SD card.

The bottom line is that the BlackBerry Q5 brings BlackBerry 10 Operating System features on a device that should appeal to mid-range markets, not only in Latin America, Asia, Africa and eastern Europe but I expect we’ll be seeing it available later on North American and European carriers. Initially it helps to sustain BlackBerry’s presence in markets that have supported them strongly through BlackBerry’s challenges of the past two years.

BlackBerry Elite

BlackBerry.CxO.Live2103The major advantage of participation in this program was the opportunity to meet other BlackBerry enthusiasts and discuss their experiences, impressions and concerns. We had a couple of briefings, one of which is reported on CrackBerry Live. BlackBerry Elite provides an opportunity for frank exchanges across a demographic of developers, customers (both enterprise and consumer), bloggers and social networking activists.  Hopefully these exchanges contribute to the evolution of BlackBerry offerings.

Yes, there was a photo op session following a briefing by the BlackBerry C-level executive team. As this occurred prior to the keynote, there was really no news coming out of this session.

In Conclusion

BlackBerry Live presented an opportunity to both learn and network. Meeting customers from Qatar, service provider representatives from Sweden and a developer partner from Egypt contributed to providing a better feel for the enthusiasm and acceptance of BlackBerry 10 around the world. There was also some learning about the competitive space. I saw not only examples of BlackBerry 10 on automobiles but also its implementation as a healthcare platform in communications-critical applications.

While BlackBerry has achieved many accomplishments over the past years, as CEO Thorsten Heins stated a few times during the event, this is just the beginning; the challenge is the future. Getting the Q10 launched in the U.S., expanding the applications base  and migrating it to native apps, supporting enterprises to (re-)adopt BlackBerry as a corporate standard and connecting to the “Internet of Things” are just a few of the many challenges ahead.

And, for me, this was the first conference I had attended where my mobile device was more than a smartphone; it was all I needed for most of my conference computing activities. My BlackBerry Z10 kept me in touch with social networking activities, news reports on the conference (and the emerging political scandals back home), my Skype contacts – especially the group chats and, of course my email. Flying down to Orlando and back home, BlackBerry users could take advantage of the free Go Go Inflight WiFi offered on Delta (to June 30).  I only used my MacBook to prepare the PowerPoint presentation for the CrackBerry Live interview; I used the BlackBerry 10 to make the presentation.

Full disclosure: The author attended BlackBerry Live 2013 as a guest of the BlackBerry Elite program. Other than a non-disclosure agreement regarding confidential information, no conditions have been placed on any coverage I may provide of the event. At the time of authoring this post, I had no proprietary information regarding BlackBerry’s future direction but rather simply my own past experience and information provided at BlackBerry Live sessions.

The author has a small holding of BlackBerry shares. But he also has iOS and Android devices in order to experience a cross section of the smartphone and tablet market. These observations are based on publicly available information combined with his own past business experience at senior management levels in high technology markets. His main interest is in seeing several thousand jobs maintained in not only the Canadian economy but also in BlackBerry organizations around the world.

Given that RIM stock has been somewhat volatile for the past few months I can only say check with your investment advisor before taking any action. These posts are for information purposes only.

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Mocet Communicator: A Desktop Phone Proxy? http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-markets-skype-world/skype-for-business/mocet-communicator-a-desktop-phone-proxy/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-markets-skype-world/skype-for-business/mocet-communicator-a-desktop-phone-proxy/#respond Wed, 10 Apr 2013 11:04:26 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=9535 MOCET.logoIn today’s office, several items may occupy our physical desktop – a computer display (or two or three) and keyboard, writing tools, a blotter pad, a few books, a papers organizer, a radio and … a communications device (traditionally known as a “phone”).

But with today’s Internet-enabled communications it’s feasible to want that communications device to go well beyond making voice calls to include support for video calls, listening to a far-off classical radio station, monitoring a broadcast sports event, such as a golf tournament or a soccer match, or watching a YouTube video.

Would a device that:

  • does not use the processor and memory resources of your PC,
  • delivers stereo audio,
  • holds your iPad (any version),
  • runs Skype, Bria, Truphone and other communications software,
  • delivers Internet radio,
  • lets you watch YouTube and make video calls
  • includes a standard telephone handset and
  • provides fast charging of your iPad
  • sets you iPad display at a viewing angle convenient for watching video

be a suitable replacement for that legacy desktop phone?

Portability of tablets is one of their primary features. However, when using it in your office, it would be convenient to mount it on a desktop at an appropriate viewing angle to easily follow, say, videos, movies and television events. Listening to music or Internet-based radio broadcasts, in stereo, would also be an option for office activity.

Of course the other activity carried out on a desktop is carrying on voice (and now video) conversations. At times the privacy of a handset is appropriate; at other times you may need a speakerphone so that everyone near your desktop can participate in a conversation. If the conversation supports superwideband HD audio, such as Skype’s SILK technology, one wants the full audio crispness associated with this technology.

Mocet.Communicator.WhiteAt CES 2013, Tecom, a manufacturer of OEM VoIP phones, introduced its MOCET Communicator desktop platform for the iPad with features such as:

  • Support for use with all iPad models from the launch model to the recently introduced “iPad 4”
  • HD handset and cradle
  • Stereo speakers and external microphone
  • Support for superwideband audio
  • One touch buttons for volume control, speakerphone, mute
  • Bluetooth connectivity for external audio sources such as a smartphone
  • Ideal office desktop platform for voice and video calling using Skype, Bria, Facetime and other IP-based communications applications
  • Display viewing angle adjustable from 30° to 75°

ClassicFM.BeethovenOver the past few months I have been using the MOCET Communicator to:

  • Place and receive Skype voice and video calls
  • Listen to radio stations (local and remote via their iPad applications)
  • Watch sports events – baseball, hockey, soccer, tennis (using Rogers Anywhere Live)
  • Watch YouTube videos, especially where music is the content
  • Receive Rogers One Number calls (made to my mobile but answered on a PC, tablet or smartphone)
  • Read books on Kindle

In order to confirm they work I have also checked out:

  • Bria for iPad – a business communications client
  • Truphone – another communications offering (involving roaming SIM’s)
  • HookFlash – an iPad communications application in beta
  • News videos on CNN, BBC and CTV News amongst others

For text typing in social networking applications, the iPad continues to work with a Bluetooth keyboard.

Bottom line: I have found the MOCET Communicator turns my iPad into a convenient companion to my PC desktop PC activity, often offloading many of the activities outlined above from using my desktop PC’s resources. The audio quality is excellent. When not using it for communications activities, it becomes my office radio; occasionally it also becomes an office “TV set” for watching live sports and news events. Yet I can make and receive voice and video calls, using the handset for privacy or using the speakerphone for hands free conversations involving others around a table in the office.

And a major plus: it turns the iPad into a flexible desktop audio/video appliance, taking a smaller footprint than a full PC while providing display of video at a comfortable viewing angle. Having it always charged while in the stand removes one significant cause for delay or interruption of activity while using the iPad in the office.

For Small to Medium Businesses there are more features:

As I don’t have a small business operation I asked Marc Abrams, MOCET’s VP Product and Business Development, about its capability to natively support SIP-based calling  within a local or hosted PBX environment. Using the free IP Commander iPad application additional service provider options become available. The MOCET Communicator …

…. is a great solution for a remote office with hosted IP services like RingCentral or 8×8 or with an SIP IP PBX whether local or remote. This provides a professional business solution for the SMB user who needs to be able to transfer calls and work with the rest of the users in the enterprise.

At US$229.00, available in the U.S. on Amazon, and elsewhere by contacting MOCET directly, it is one communications device option worth investigating for both its convenience and audio performance.

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Skype for Everyone: Supporting Over 2 Billion Minutes per Day http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/skype-for-everyone-supporting-over-2-billion-minutes-per-day/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/skype-for-everyone-supporting-over-2-billion-minutes-per-day/#respond Wed, 03 Apr 2013 17:47:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=9506 Today Skype announced they had passed a significant milestone, now supporting over 2 Billion minutes of conversations per day. Here’s the infographic:

In one day, Skype users spent 2 billion minutes connecting with each other
2 billion minutes infographic by Skype

With Skype clients on PC’s, smartphones (iOS, Android, Windows Phone and soon to include BlackBerry 10), tablets, including Kindle Fire, and an emerging offering of Internet-enabled TV’s as well as the current migration of Windows Live Messenger to Skype, it’s bound to continue the growth.

Recent data from Hudson Barton’s Skype Statistics shows that recently as many as 55 million were online concurrently. This number is only an indicator but certainly supports the trending upwards as well.

UsersOnline.04Apr13.Borderless

Bottom line: the numbers speak for themselves.

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Skype for iPhone 4.6 – Revising the Calling Experience http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-ecosystem/video-calling/skype-for-iphone-4-6revising-the-calling-experience/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-ecosystem/video-calling/skype-for-iphone-4-6revising-the-calling-experience/#respond Fri, 08 Mar 2013 19:42:26 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=9129 S4iPhone.4_6..iTunesInfoYesterday Skype released Skype 4.6 for iOS, available as both Skype for iPhone and Skype for  iPad. The changes include:

New features and improvements:

  • New, beautiful calling experience
  • One-to-one chats now appear in the correct order
  • Option to select your message as ‘read’ with just a few taps
  • General fixes and improvements

A call with Dan York provided an opportunity to experience “the new, beautiful calling experience”. Fundamentally the call management bar has been reformatted with various action options and menus during a call:

S4iPhone.4_6.DanYorkVideo S4iPhone.4_6.DanYorkCamera
Call Management Bar Camera Selection
S4iPhone.4_6.DanYorkSpeaker S4iPhone.4_6.VOTW.Messages
Speaker Selection Select Chat
Other Party or All
S4iPhone.4_6.DanYork.lChat S4iPhone.4_6.AllChat
Called Party Messages
(Show Messages)
All Messages
(Show All Messages)

Note that the “Active Call” button in the Message Action Bar returns you to the call itself.

S4iPhone.4_6.VOTW.DialPadWhen making a voice call (no video) the options for the “Show” icon add in “Show Dial Pad”. While normally one would only need the dial pad on a SkypeOut call to deal with an enterprise’s ACD menus.

To check out “One-to-one chats now appear in the correct order” I compared the chat sessions shown in “All Messages” above with those listed under  the “Recent” tab in Skype for Windows Desktop and found the order to be the same.

Note that when you first log into Skype on your iPhone/iPad it may take a few moments for all the relevant chat sessions to be listed.

When making a SkypeOut call to a PSTN number the a similar call management bar appears; however when you click on the “Show Messages” icon, it will open up a window for sending an SMS message. However, SMS messaging from Skype remains outbound only as shown in the attempt to send a response below.

S4iPhone.4_6.VOTW.PSTN.DialPad S4iPhone.4_6.VOTW.PSTN.SMS BB10.VOTW.PSTN.SMS
Call to BlackBerry 10 Text Message to SMS BlackBerry 10
side of the SMS conversation

Make a few Skype for iPhone calls and provide your experience feedback in the Comments.

The Skype Garage Blog post also lists several resolved issues that make operation more reliable and intuitive as well as a few known issues.

A separate post will cover the Skype for iPad 4.6 issues.

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How can Skype avoid becoming obsolete? http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/how-can-skype-avoid-becoming-obsolete/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/how-can-skype-avoid-becoming-obsolete/#respond Thu, 07 Mar 2013 12:39:25 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=9062 https://i0.wp.com/voiceontheweb.biz/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/200488557001dc53a697a8e.jpg?resize=354%2C236

[More about Phil Wolff and this guest post below.]

Skype’s been disappointing some of my friends.

They bemoan missing features available in more enterprisey tools, a real Skype for the web app, a platform for coding Skype into our own web services, and a passion for design simplicity that makes Skype clients feel dumbed down. They long for a Skype that’s feature rich, sophisticated, customizable, part of the rest of our onlives, and as exciting as it was when we made our first call.

I relate to that ache. Skype doesn’t seem to be building its next products for me.

Perhaps it shouldn’t.

It comes down to defining what “winning” is in Skypeland. At its core, Skype is a network effects business. Winning is when everyone and everything (groups, orgs, corps, govs; bicycles, cars, refrigerators, homes) has Skype access and uses it for everything. And that Skype has a way to monetize participation in the network by users and partners.

So in a perfectly Skypified universe, seven billion people would use Skype every time they talk or write with each other.

Today, Skype has a quarter of a billion active users, and they only use Skype for a fraction of their communications.

So Skype is focused on three things:

  • more active users (which includes reducing churn and increasing acquisition virally and through partnership),
  • more activity (through better usability, features, touch points, persuasion), and
  • risk management (surviving the next waves of tech/business/social disruptions).

How can Skype avoid becoming obsolete?

Skype will be 10 years’ old in a few months. They’ve been sold a bunch of times but seem to have found their final home. They started with one version of the client, like the black Model T Ford, one for everyone.

Now they make dozens of clients on many devices and operating systems. The next ten years will make the current mix seem archaic as WebRTC and other technologies make the Skype clients just one of many to offer Skype-like services. Every app and every site will offer voice/video/IM to the people and services you connect to through them. Pocket Planes will let you chat with other gamers. Blogs will too, thanks to WordPress plug-ins.

So when the technology for making a pipe between a few endpoints is ubiquitous, the services surrounding the conversation become more important. Directories for finding people. In-chat and in-call augmentation. Archival and sharing of recordings and transcripts. Anonymity and other identity protection. Integration with other services. Integration with commerce through advertising, vendor relationship management, and customer relationship management.

Exactly how well will voice as a phone service, with phone numbers, prosper in this context? I had dinner on Friday with people trying to enable HD audio at the PSTN interconnect level, where your phone call travels from one phone company to another on its way to the callee. This is introducing wideband audio in 2013, a decade after Skype made wideband audio a free and expected service. In turn, Skype as we know it is about to become like PSTN unless it responds well to major threats.

Can Skype design a new architecture that people can trust in the surveillance-state era?

Can it find new cash sources as SkypeOut becomes less valuable to consumers?

Can it adapt to or fend off regulatory pressure in major markets to offer expensive 911 services, to collect taxes/fees for a hundred governments?

Can it make a reliable developer platform that makes basic things easy while inspiring innnovation and diversity?

Can it become invaluable to the other Microsoft divisions?

Can it help you talk to people even if they aren’t using Skype?

Can it embrace technology challenges like wearable computing and WebRTC without losing its brand?

Can Skype rebound from the trust-shattering scandal or crisis that hits every uber-large network at some point?

Can Skype do all this fast enough to keep Apple, Google, and other big players from offering migration destinations for disaffected Skype users? From small players from stealing big chunks of the userbase?

Can Skype do all this while paying attention to everyday operations and customer service?

It’s a big agenda.

[Editor’s Note: Phil Wolff formerly managed  Skype Journal, an independent blog covering Skype and IP-based communications. He still hosts a sporadically active group chat that discusses Skype and related issues. Recently he expressed on this chat a draft of what follows; I invited him to post it here.

Phil always challenges and gives you something to think about. In this case, it’s Phil’s perspective on what he thinks Skype’s challenges and opportunities could be as a Microsoft business unit in a world where IP-based communications is becoming more and more “generic”.

It was Phil who introduced me to blogging via Skype Journal; all pre-February 2009 posts on Voice On The Web were originally published on Skype Journal. Jim Co.]

 

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Is WiFi Becoming the Unregulated Stealth Carrier of the Future? A Reprise. http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/wireless-carriers/is-wifi-becoming-the-unregulated-stealth-carrier-of-the-future-a-reprise/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/mobile-root/wireless-carriers/is-wifi-becoming-the-unregulated-stealth-carrier-of-the-future-a-reprise/#respond Mon, 11 Feb 2013 14:54:25 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=8853 wifi.logo.100px.jpgBack in the summer of 2009 I wrote a post, Is WiFi Becoming the Unregulated Stealth Carrier of the Future?, where I covered some of my experiences using WiFi while traveling, especially to European destinations. For ten days in January, 2013 I traveled throughout the Central American country of Costa Rica and decided to use only WiFi for keeping my BlackBerry Torch 9800 and iPhone 5 in contact with the world. I also took my BlackBerry PlayBook which only supports a WiFi connection (its tethering to my BlackBerry Torch is very useful but would have required using a carrier for my Torch). My wife took her 4-year-old MacBook to keep up with her Facebook activities.

No Roaming Charges

My goal was to avoid any of the expensive roaming charges associated with using a wireless carrier outside of Canada. It would have cost $50.00 for 15 minutes of voice and 100 text messages and $40.00 for 10MB of data. Airplane mode was turned on for the iPhone; turned off the carrier connection on my Torch. Here is my “no roaming charges” experience.

Availability

I found WiFi was available at all five hotels on our tour. My Priority Club membership meant I had free WiFi at an Intercontinental Hotel. A lodge in the “remote” Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast had recently installed WiFi in their reception area.

Arenal VolcanoA hotel near the Arenal volcano had good WiFi in their reception area and intermittent WiFi in the rooms which were essentially multi-room chalets in rows up a mountain side (so we could all view the volcano clearly). The J.W. Marriott at Guanacaste on the Pacific Coast had WiFi but with a reduced charge due to our association with a tour. The Quality Hotel for our last night prior to flying home had free WiFi. But here was the real surprise: our tour stopped at several wayside restaurants for lunch; they all had WiFi. And even some of the “tourist” experiences, such as a Crocodile Tour, had WiFi in their store.

I also bought a one hour WiFi subscription during our two stopovers at Miami airport and finally had a chance to check out GoGo Inflight during our flight home from Miami to Toronto. The San Jose, Costa Rica airport had free WiFi.

FourSquare.CRTripSo while I did not have Internet access while riding the tour bus (where cell phone use was discouraged) or on the riverboat tours in the various jungle rivers, it was readily available at every stop along the way. Sometimes you had to ask for a password but most staff had the answer immediately. The FourSquare map on the left provides an indication of where I checked in; large dots indicate multiple check-in points.

(As a side observation the local riverboat tour guides all had mobile phones to share the locations of various bird and animal sightings.)

Using IP-based Communications

I had three options for free calls back to Canada or Europe (Belgium, Italy): Skype, BBM Voice or Rogers One Number (from my wife’s MacBook).   One significant advantage of these services is they all use HD Voice, providing much clearer audio on voice calls than any carrier can provide. Facetime was also available but is not a normal mode for my activities; Facebook Messenger was also an option but again something I use infrequently. At various times I used all of the first three in context, including a Skype video call, but a couple of observations.

PachiraPayPhoneVoice/video call blocking over Skype does not suffice any more. At the Park lodge, the WiFi blocked Skype voice calls; try Skype Test Call and you were cut off five seconds into the call. Yet I was able to make a very clear 15 minute voice call to an Italian acquaintance using BBM Voice (and now I can reveal he was testing out BBM Voice on a BlackBerry Z10). I attempted a FaceTime call; it rang but the other party did not answer (all of these offerings should have the equivalent of Skype Test Call).

The lodge was probably still trying to recover the cost of supporting the relic shown to the right but I did not see anyone using it during our two days there. On the other hand Skype needs to start working to ensure it is not indiscriminately blocked where others dare to provide free voice and video communications.

As for text messages, I could access and respond to all my BlackBerry text messages using Rogers One Number on my wife’s MacBook. Not many messages but was handy when I needed to reset a Google 2-step password, etc. I also exchanged iMessage messages with another iPhone user in Canada over WiFi even though my iPhone wanted me to disable Airplane mode.

If I have one complaint it’s with the Internet service provider at the Intercontinental and Marriott (was the same one for both). Why do I need to log back onto their service every half hour or so? This was essentially a time wasting nuisance with no financial gain to the service provider or hotel. And why do they not recognize that hotel guests are usually going to have more than one device that requires WiFi access? Between the two of us we had six devices.

Why was WiFi intermittent at Arenal Springs? Too many WiFi access points. It seems like they put an access point in each chalet and they overlapped. Devices wanted to drift amongst the access points. The meshing of access points is still a technology under development.

Bottom line: WiFi is becoming a much more reliable and available unregulated Stealth carrier as an alternative to roaming services. I was able to maintain any necessary communication (not that I want to do much while on vacation) and follow my email, Twitter and Facebook feeds on any of my mobile devices with no difficulty. In fact, I also watched the BlackBerry 10 launch event from that Marriott hotel using my BlackBerry Playbook – it had the fastest web browser. And I was able to track the reviews and follow up news during the remainder of my trip via Twitter and Google+.

My final cost for Internet service over the ten days? $20 at the Marriott, $9 at Miami Airport and $4 for GoGo Inflight. These gave me unlimited calling (except GoGo Inflight) and data.

Note: last week Rogers announced new rates forthcoming for roaming in the U.S.

Update: Today TruPhone announced they are going to offer WiFi with their TruPhone+ service that combines use of both GSM and WiFi for network access:

Truphone+’ seamlessly integrates the company’s unique Global GSM network with its internet calling application. The combination of these two technologies enables those with no GSM coverage to make and receive calls using WiFi in their homes and offices or in a WiFi hot spot. Importantly, customers will often benefit from improved call quality.

Truphone + uses “intelligent routing” to automatically choose whether to carry the call over GSM or WiFi by making real time measurement of signal quality. The user needs only to ‘press call’ to make a secure connection over the highest quality link available.

With an elegant user interface designed to streamline the user experience, Truphone+ puts more control in the hands of the user. A call cost indicator displays the precise per-minute cost so the user can decide when and where they want to make a call, thereby eliminating bill shock.

One more reinforcement of WiFi as the Stealth carrier for mobile communications.

The best value of the trip: we checked out the cost of staying at the J.W. Marriott if we had gone on our own. Two nights would have cost two-thirds of the entire cost of our trip with nine nights of hotels, bus travel, three meals a day and a very knowledgeable and effective tour director. If you want to get a great cross-section of Costa Rica’s geographical features and wildlife, Caravan’s tour is highly recommended.

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Skype 4.5 for iPhone/iPad Iterates the User Experience http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/skype-4-5-for-iphoneipad-iterates-the-user-experience/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/skype-4-5-for-iphoneipad-iterates-the-user-experience/#respond Sat, 09 Feb 2013 12:57:30 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=8808 Skype4iPhone.imageOver the past week Skype has released Skype 4.5 for iPhone and iPad providing a reconfigured user experience in Portrait display on the iPad while addressing some user experience issues on both devices.

Skype 4.5 for iPad – the new Portrait UI experience

It starts with logging in. When I attempted to log into Skype with my Skype user name it reminded me that I had associated my Skype name with a Microsoft ID. While remaining an option to use either ID, using my Microsoft ID does include access to any Live Messenger contacts I had.

S4iPad.4_5.MSLoginReminder

The changes in Portrait mode deal with the fact that the left Recent/People/History panel would be squished onto the left side of the display and was essentially useless for navigation. I always found myself rotating to landscape mode to get the full picture of the left panel.

With this iteration, Skype 4.5 for iPad now launches into a full screen “All Contacts” page when in Portrait mode. Then Skype for iPad invokes a gesture to proceed.

Swipe from the left side and you get the previous “People/Recent/History” panel  overlaying the left side but with a full width view.

S4iPad.4_5.AllContacts S4iPad.4_5.RecentsSlider
 Launch screen in Portrait mode  Swipe from left to get the “Index” panel

As for the “menu” bar at the top, the options are to select the “People/Recent/History” panel overlay via a touch selection, launch a dial pad and perform Search activities:

S4iPad.4_5.TopMenuActions

 

Selecting the “All” button brings up your “Lists” menu including options to filter the displayed Contacts to Online Contacts, Skype Contacts, Recent Contacts, your iPad Contacts and any Lists that you have built up using Skype for Windows Desktop or Skype for Mac.

iPad Contacts is one way to access your iCloud Contacts for making SkypeOut calls, provided you have an iCloud account. This option showed up automatically on installing Skype for iPad. iPad Contacts do not show up in any of the other Contact List options.

Selecting your account name at the top brings a Profile panel for accessing various settings, including details of “My Profile” and updating the mood message.

s4iPad.4_5.ContactFilters S4iPad.4_5.VOTWProfile
 Display Contacts Options  Profile Menu

In addition to the Contacts directories, as in previous versions, the main screen may also contain individual Conversation logs, including chat conversations, or, if History is selected in the “People/Recent/History” panel, a listing of all your past conversations, any of which can be brought up by a simple touch selections.

Landscape mode remains unchanged with respect to always displaying the “Index” panel on the left sidebar and Contacts, Conversation logs and History on the right.

Other Changes

One of the annoying aspects of Skype for iPhone/iPad was that, in the “Recent” or “History” screens, the conversation logs would not be listed in chronological order going backwards in time. This has been addressed in Skype 4.5 for iPhone/iPad.

The new versions have also incorporated a feature of Skype for Windows Desktop where dropped calls can be recovered automatically. This has worked for me many times when using Skype for Windows Desktop; however, not always.

Finally, should you call an emergency number from Skype for iPhone the call will automatically be redirected to call out over the carrier’s voice channel for making calls from the iPhone.

Minor changes have also been made to improve the UI experience on the iPad Mini.

Bottom line: More of a maintenance release, the new Portrait mode UI in Skype for iPad does significantly improve navigation around Skype for iPad in this display mode. Otherwise, the changes are iterative but do improve the overall user experience in small ways.

One very annoying aspect, and this is probably an iOS 5/6 issue rather than a Skype issue: every time I leave Skype for iPad to go to another application, it appears I have to go through the entire auto-login process when returning to Skype. Maybe I am getting spoiled by the background processing feature of QNX on my PlayBook (and soon to come on my BlackBerrry Z10). This is not the experience when using Skype for iPhone.

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Skype 6.1 for Windows Classic: The Untold Changes http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/skype-6-1-for-windows-classic-the-untold-changes/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/skype-6-1-for-windows-classic-the-untold-changes/#respond Mon, 14 Jan 2013 03:21:40 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=8604 skype-windows-logoLast Friday Skype released Skype 6.1 for Windows Classic, an upgrade to the Desktop Skype client that incorporated:

  • integration with Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
  • taking “Add a Contact” down to a 2 step process
  • a new profile screen with more accessible account information, and
  • not mentioned in the Skype Big Blog post linked above: a new user interface for the Contacts Management (left) sidebar

Windows 8 users should note that this is the edition of Skype that runs in the Desktop mode of Windows 8 and continues with the full legacy Skype feature set. Of course it also applies to Windows 7 and earlier Windows versions.

I have spent some time looking through the new features; in this post I’ll discuss the last three. As the Outlook integration requires significant discussion I’ll review it in a separate post.

However, looking closely at the images in the Skype Big Blog post one would think that there had been no changes to the Contact management sidebar. However, in practice there was almost a total reorganization of the sidebar.

S4W6_1.BigBlogContactsU(

S4W6_1.ActualContactsUI

Legacy Contacts UI
(shown in Big Blog post)

Actual Skype 6.1 for Windows Contacts UI

The changes can be summarized as follows:

The User name in the top pane only takes you to the User Profile screen where you can update your user profile and access your Account Management via a web browser:

S4W6_1.NewUI.Full.600px

S4W6_1.NewUIOverview.240pxUnderneath is a new pane that leads to four actions in the right hand conversation panel:

  • Home button takes you to the previous Home screen with the most recently called Contacts. mood message change and one of (a) your Skype Contacts news feed, (b) your Facebook news feed (if you have connected to Facebook), (c) Alerts issue by Skype re your account or (d) All three. (see below)
  • The telephone icon opens the dialpad in the Conversation panel for making SkypeOut calls by entering a phone number or Contact name
  • The “group icon” opens up the Create Group window for multi-party conversations
  • The “+” icon launches the “Add a Contact” process (more below)

The subsequent pane comprises a Search bar which can be used in several ways:

  • Search within your existing contacts as has been available in the past
  • As a replacement for the previous “Add a Contact” screen where you could search for a new Contact by Name, email address, or SkypeID (see below)
  • Search for Outlook contacts (see follow up post on using Skype 6.1 with Outlook)

The Home Screen:

S4W6_1.HomePage.600px

Add a Contact process:

S4W6_1.AddAContact.Selection.600px

Fundamentally this amounts to a new Search algorithm that invokes the legacy search capability plus “Add a Contact” plus searching for Outlook contacts.

Bottom line: in addition to the Skype for Windows Desktop changes to described on the Skype Big Blog significant changes were made to the Contacts management panel, including some new processes for bringing up the Phone Dialer, creating a Group and Adding a Contact. As a result it significantly modifies the user experience and algorithms for executing launching these processes.

A follow up post will discuss the integration with Microsoft Outlook email manager.

You can download Skype 6.1 for Windows Desktop (Classic) here.

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Skype Video for Grey Cup: Sharing the Game Across Oceans http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-ecosystem/video-calling/skype-video-for-grey-cup-sharing-the-game-across-oceans/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-ecosystem/video-calling/skype-video-for-grey-cup-sharing-the-game-across-oceans/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2012 19:20:55 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=8447 The Grey Cup is the ultimate award for winning the Canadian Football League’s championship game. With two conferences (East and West), each of the eight teams play 18 games from July to November, followed by three weekends of playoffs, ending with the Grey Cup game on the last weekend of November. The games itself climaxes a week-long festival in the host city – this year at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. Somewhat akin to the Super Bowl, it attracts one of the largest TV audiences across Canada. Canada’s Justin Bieber highlighted the half-time show.

GreyCup.Jeff.Dutch.300pxI belong to a fitness club where Jeff Johnson (#33) was one of the former instructors; he has just completed his eleventh season with the Toronto Argonauts (and is, in fact, their longest playing member of a team that has had its ups and downs over that time). Two weeks ago the Argonauts came from second place in the Eastern Conference season standings to win the 100th Grey Cup game over the Calgary Stampeders 35-22. As a result Jeff was able to take the cup around for a day and dropped by my fitness club with the cup.

So what does this have to do with Skype? I overheard one of the club members at the reception, Garry, talking about using Skype video so that a wanderlust friend could see the game half-way around the world.

Garry’s friend Doug is a very dedicated Argonaut fan (yes, they have a strongly loyal fan base in the Toronto area). Garry usually spends his winters in Florida while Doug is vacationing in Mexico; they often use Skype to keep in touch during their vacations. However, on the day of the game, Doug was in Singapore visiting his son for a couple of months while Garry was still at home in Mississauga (Toronto).

As the game time approached on November 26 Garry and Doug were on a Skype video call using Garry’s iPad 2. Initially they discussed receiving game updates verbally as the game progressed. However, Garry then realized he should try to set the iPad up on a chair capturing his 52” HDTV screen’s video and audio. They positioned the chair such that the iPad captured the full TV screen. Doug, his wife and son were then able to watch the game live on his son’s desktop PC in Singapore. Not exactly a SlingBox setup but it was more than acceptable for viewing.

Grey Cup 100 Toronto Touchdown Play; courtesy TSN

Last Argonauts touchdown play – credit to TSN

During commercials they muted the TV audio and discussed the game. The Skype connection dropped three or four times over the three hour period but they were quickly able to recover. Garry says that the overall experience was almost as if the five of them (Garry and his wife in Mississauga and Doug’s family in Sinagpore) were sitting in the same room.

Garry was on Rogers Express Internet service with 25GB download speed and 2MBps upload, more than sufficient for Skype High Quality Video.

Bottom line: The iPad is becoming a major device for convenient Skype calling. It is definitely becoming the default communications mode for travelers; several friends have taken their iPad on vacations as their sole source of communications to friends and relatives back home, whether in Costa Rica, Scotland or at Whistler, B.C. But this story serves as one more example of the level to which innovative users will use Skype video for unique occasions; previous examples include weddings where plans are forced to change at the last minute due volcanoes or medical emergencies. And it’s one more example of WiFi becoming the “stealth” carrier.

As this was personal use only, and into a location where the game was not otherwise available, one would have to assume this does not violate any copyright regulations.

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Skype for Windows Phone 8: Available But Where? http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/skype-for-windows-phone-8-available-but-where/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/skype-for-windows-phone-8-available-but-where/#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2012 03:49:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=8158 SkypeWinPhone8.logo.phoneToday Skype announced a “preview” release of Skype for Windows Phone 8. While it appears to have many of the features of Skype for Windows 8 on the Microsoft Surface, there remains one major question: where can I acquire it in Canada?

I have searched the three major Canadian wireless carrier sites (Rogers, Telus Mobility and Bell Canada); on the first two I only find six outdated Windows Phone 7.5 offerings from Nokia. No sign of the Nokia 920 yet. And, frankly, while I had several Nokia mobile phones in the early days of cellular services, Nokia has never had a significant presence in the Canadian smartphone market.

At the moment it seems only Microsoft Canada employees will be able to check it out; however, maybe a hint of consumer distribution will come at the opening of Canada’s first Microsoft Store in Toronto on Friday. While Rogers has announced an agreement to promote Windows 8 product, it seems like getting them into the full retail channel is taking time.

Software needs a compatible hardware platform; at least that has always been a requirement in the past to take full advantage of its feature set. What will be the Microsoft Canada distribution strategy for Windows Phone 8?

Update: at the launch of the Toronto Microsoft store in mid-November, it was announced that Windows Phone 8 handsets, in the form of Nokia Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8X HTC, are now available from Rogers as the exclusive Canadian carrier.

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Skype In The Workspace: Promoting the Small Business http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-markets-skype-world/skype-for-business/skype-in-the-workspace-promoting-the-small-business/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-markets-skype-world/skype-for-business/skype-in-the-workspace-promoting-the-small-business/#respond Fri, 09 Nov 2012 04:15:37 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=8052 SITW.Logo.OpportunityIn beta for the past six months building up a base of over 500 small business entrepreneurs seeking new customers, Skype today launched Skype in the Workplace, a free-to-use online platform for small businesses and entrepreneurs, enabling instant connections with potential customers, partners and suppliers across the globe.

In a Skype Big Blog post, Bringing you face-to-face with small businesses around the world: Welcome to ‘Skype in the workspace’, Ural Cebeci, head of SMB Marketing at Skype, summed it up with:

Skype in the Workspace provides you with a single, web-based platform to effectively run your business online. SITW is designed to be simple and straightforward for small businesses to use. Users can sign up in just 30 seconds using their Skype or LinkedIn profile and sharing tools on the site allow users to share their latest business activities with their online network via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Whether it is video calling with Skype or booking appointments to meet with new connections, it can all be done within the Skype in the Workspace environment.

Don’t forget, SITW is also open to the public. Consumers are able to use SITW as a directory of companies across the globe, offering them the ability to search and instantly connect with businesses.

SITW.ExampleEntrepreneurs can sign up, using either their Skype or LinkedIn account, at no cost and describe the opportunity they offer to prospective businesses and consumers. Included is an option to offer free time on a Skype call to answer initial questions and establish a customer relationship.

ReadWrite.com has put out a review: Microsoft’s “Skype In The Workspace.” It’s Like A Video-Based Quora, pointing out some shortcomings:

A video-based, Quora-like repository of knowledge seems to have value, but only if people can quickly connect and benefit. Skype In The Workspace really needs filtering capabilities, as well as some sort of reputation system. Microsoft has built an intriguing platform with Skype In The Workspace, but this initial version seems more curiosity than useful tool for entrepreneurs.

With over six years of following Skype, its hardware and its expansion of features, Voice On The Web is offering free 15 minute sessions with small business entrepreneurs to discuss their needs and how they may leverage Skype. Frankly I’ll provide them with an overview of Experience Skype to the Maxand how it can serve as a reference for taking advantage of Skype in building low cost communications in a small business. Most valuable is my experience with Skype collaboration tools that can help build a worldwide business team and customer base.

Bottom line: Skype has always had small businesses as a significant portion of its user base. Skype in the Workspace provides an opportunity for small business entrepreneurs to share their experience and knowledge in a way that makes their business customers more profitable and productive.

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Microsoft Acquires Skype: Windows Live Messenger Migrates to Skype http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-ecosystem/video-calling/microsoft-acquires-skype-windows-live-messenger-migrates-to-skype/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-ecosystem/video-calling/microsoft-acquires-skype-windows-live-messenger-migrates-to-skype/#respond Wed, 07 Nov 2012 02:01:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=7963 Today yesterday’s rumor was confirmed that Microsoft will close down Windows Live Messenger in Q1, 2013 and migrate the 100 million active accounts over to Skype. In a Skype Big Blog post, Skype President Tony Bates comments:

Our goal remains to deliver the best communications experience for everyone, everywhere. We want to focus our efforts on making things simpler for our users while continuously improving the overall experience. We will retire Messenger in all countries worldwide in the first quarter of 2013 (with the exception of mainland China where Messenger will continue to be available).

He also points out the key advantages to Windows Live Messenger users:

The process for migrating to Skype is fairly easy using the wizard Skype has set up for this process. WLM users need to download and install the Skype client, create a Skype account if they don’t have one and their WLM contacts will appear as Skype contacts. Link it to your Facebook account and you can also manage chat, voice and video calls with your Facebook contacts. The details of this process are in Tony’s post linked above.

Skype.WLM.MergeAccounts

What was not mentioned is that this process also sets up your Skype account for use with Skype for Windows 8; however, you will still want to install Skype for Windows Classic on the Windows 8 Desktop to have access to all Skype’s features when using Windows 8.

One caveat: keep in mind that Messenger, Facebook and Skype chat sessions are independent threads and shown as separate contacts. You will find the Facebook chat session showing up on all devices that support Facebook chat (even on BlackBerry phones and Playbook).

One other advantage, WLM users will now be able to take full advantage of Skype’s crystal clear voice, using SILK, and ability to support full 720p and 1080p HD video at 30 fps with the right webcam and Internet upload speed.

Bottom line: this quantum leap in the Skype user base will certainly help drive Skype revenues for SkypeOut calls, Skype Online numbers and Skype Premium subscriptions. But will it be sufficient to help drive the justification of an $8.5B acquisition price?

Next: awaiting the Skype integration into Outlook.com – it has implications not only for Mail on Windows 8 but also the People application and incorporating fully the Skype profile into the People application.

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Microsoft Acquires Skype: What is the Fate of Windows Live Messenger? http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/microsoft-acquires-skype-what-is-the-fate-of-windows-live-messenger/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/microsoft-acquires-skype-what-is-the-fate-of-windows-live-messenger/#respond Tue, 06 Nov 2012 01:23:38 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=7938 When discussing the Microsoft acquisition of Skype in Experience Skype to the Max, I made the statement:

The key to the Microsoft acquisition is for Skype to build out its current platform, often working with third party developer partners, while integrating Skype’s software and technology into Microsoft products such as Office (Outlook, especially), Windows Phone, Windows Live, Xbox 360 and, possibly, its business communications offering.

When the Microsoft acquisition of Skype was first announced one of my questions at the time was:

How will the two companies’ instant messaging services be brought together? Skype chat offers a richer chat experience, especially given the ability to rapidly escalate to a superior voice and video conversation and to provide complements such as file transfer.

Over the past few weeks we have started to see first steps towards the integration of Skype into Microsoft offerings. First, the merging of Skype and Microsoft accounts; next the launch of Skype for Windows 8. During my recent interview with Skype’s Piero Sierra he pointed out that, over the past 18 months, there have been deep architectural changes to the Skype back end. It has been completely re-architected for extreme mobile environments. And that back end architecture brings more robustness to Skype’s Instant Messaging based on the Windows Live Messenger back end. For instance, messages can now be buffered even when a contact is not online; pick them up when next logged in.  Calls themselves still use Skype’s peer-to-peer technology that allows Skype to offer free Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls.

S4W5_5.ConversationPaneOverviewToday, it was no surprise to learn that we may be seeing the retirement of Windows Live Messenger shortly. My comments:

  • I had actively used Windows Live Messenger (“WLM”), or its predecessors, until about five years ago when I found that all my WLM contacts were also Skype contacts. That redundancy was demonstrated in yesterday’s post, Linking Skype and Microsoft Accounts: A primer.
  • Skype has more feature rich messaging in terms of archiving and/or logging Skype activity and escalating conversations to voice and video calls. It was only recently with the ability to merge Skype and Microsoft accounts that I found there was still a WLM client available in Windows Essentials.
  • With the ability to log into Skype using a Microsoft account, WLM users only need to download and install Skype to continue their conversations with the same set of contacts. Also expect to see Skype Instant Messaging accessed from the People application in the near future.
  • It would certainly drive a quantum jump in number of active Skype users.
  • If all users of WLM are brought into a Skype client, Skype can realize additional revenues from SkypeOut, Skype Online Numbers and Skype Premium subscriptions.
  • WLM users will be able to take full advantage of Skype’s unique voice and video technologies (SILK for crystal clear audio and HD Video calling at 30 fps).

Question: WLM users could archive their chat conversations locally. Will these archives be transferred over to the Skype conversation archive available when using Skype for Windows or Skype for Mac?

Bottom line: this move simply reinforces the robustness, maturity and feature richness of Skype’s Instant Messaging as it has evolved over the years.

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Skype for Windows 8: Audio Settings and Options http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/skype-for-windows-8-audio-settings-and-options/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-software/skype-for-windows-8-audio-settings-and-options/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2012 02:32:22 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=7921 Following @SkypeSupport on Twitter quickly provides an overview of where users are having issues.

One of the most accessible features of Skype for Windows Classic is the ability to monitor audio and video settings directly from the client. Prior to a call you can check out microphone, speakers and webcam from the Call Quality Information tool that shows up in a Contact’s conversation pane. During a call this information is also readily accessible from the Call Management Bar. This feature overcame an issue where one had to check Windows Sound and Video settings from the Control Panel – not readily found by the average consumer user.

S4W8.AudioSettings.TweetSo it was not a surprise when I came across the Tweet on the right. It poses a question I had checked out at some point when using Skype for Windows 8 on a desktop PC and a Microsoft Surface.

The response requires a couple of gestures or a few keystrokes:

  • When in Skype bring up the charms by a gesture from the right on a touch screen or taking the mouse to either of the right corners on a mouse-based screen.
  • Select Settings | Options and you’ll find the following:

S4W8.Settings.Options.Emerg

It provides not only audio and video device information but also privacy settings.

What’s interesting it the “Default location for emergency calls” drop down box. Shown above is the (standard) warning seen when one selects “Canada”. Below is the warning that comes up when you select United Kingdom where the regulatory agency, Offcom, set some minimum requirements for emergency calls:

S4W8.Settings.Options.UK.Emerg

Is the existence of this setting related to any activity to incorporate emergency calling into Skype features? It would certainly eliminate one obstacle to the lack of Canadian Skype Online numbers.

In this example from a Desktop, the microphone and speakers are from the Yamaha PSG-01MS Microphone Speaker; the webcam is a FREETALK Everyman HD webcam. However, on the Microsoft Surface I found that while Skype for Windows 8 would recognize headsets (mic and speakers), it would not recognize third party webcams, via its USB port.

Bottom line: Audio and Video settings when using Skype for Windows 8 can be found; it just requires a couple of extra swipes or keystrokes. Hopefully a Call Quality Information feature will appear in a future release of Skype for Windows 8. Meanwhile, if you are having difficulty with a Skype call, use Skype for Windows Classic on the Windows 8 Desktop to access the Call Quality Information feature during a call.

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Linking Skype and Microsoft Accounts: A primer http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/linking-skype-and-microsoft-accounts-a-primer/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/conversation-providers/linking-skype-and-microsoft-accounts-a-primer/#respond Sun, 04 Nov 2012 01:36:18 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=7890 With the release of Skype for Windows 5.11 beta and Skype for Mac 5.11 beta, we first encountered the ability to log into Skype via a “linked” Microsoft account. Since then Skype has introduced other offerings that make it clear why this merging is becoming necessary, especially with the launch of Skype for Windows 8. But it has also caused some concern; this post aims to assist with questions that arise.

Update; You can now log into Skype 3.0 for Android and Skype 4.2.1. for iPhone and iPad via your Microsoft account.

Where is this linkage supported?

Skype for Windows 6.0 and Skype for Mac 6.0 became the “release” version of the two 5.11 betas. Both support logging in via a Microsoft account; only logging in via a Microsoft account provides chat access to Windows Messenger contacts via the respective Skype client.

S4W.5_11.MultiAccount.Featured

User accounts in Windows 8 are, by default, linked to your Microsoft account. A user logs into Windows 8 via their Microsoft account ID rather than a “PC-specific” user account as established in previous versions of Windows. Installing Skype for Windows 8 (from the Windows Store) and then launching it from the Start screen does not require a further login. It simply opens in your Skype account linked to your Microsoft account. There are other advantages to this approach, whether using Windows 8 on a PC or Windows 8 RT on a Surface tablet.

  • On opening the user account in Windows 8, it established links to your Outlook.com/Hotmail email account, the People application, photos associated with your Microsoft account, including Facebook and Flickr (if linked to your MS account), your xBox account and your SkyDrive account, amongst others.
  • It certainly minimizes the time required to set up these applications on a new PC or Surface.
  • Once established, it also synchronizes these accounts across hardware platforms, whether accessed on another Windows 8 PC or tablet (or Windows Phone 8), a Windows 7 PC or any other device, such as an Android or iPad tablet, that supports these services or applications individually.
  • It also provides access to Windows Messenger via either the Windows People application or Skype. Only the People application provides access to Facebook contacts (other than via Facebook in Internet Explorer); Skype for Windows 8 does not have access to Facebook contacts.
People.Contact.TextMessage.280px SkypeContact.TextMessage
People Contact Skype Contact

However, there are a couple of caveats:

  • Only one Skype account can be merged with a Microsoft account. While one can create an additional Microsoft account to merge with another Skype account, the logistics involved become too complex for normal day-to-day use of Windows 8. It is preferable to access additional accounts using Skype for Windows Classic on the Windows 8 Desktop.
  • Skype for Windows Classic on the Windows 8 desktop is also required for screen sharing, file sharing and group video calls. Skype for Windows 8 is a work-in-progress and may, at Skype’s discretion, incorporate these features into future versions.

Skype has put up a more detailed FAQ page outlining “What happens when I merge my Skype and Microsoft accounts?”. It includes instructions for the most tweeted question: “Can I unmerge my Skype and Microsoft accounts?” Hint: contact Skype Customer Support.

Bottom line: As stated in a previous post, effectively Skype for Windows 8 provides real time communications while working with other applications in Windows 8. And the merger of Skype and Microsoft accounts will form the basis for accessing future related offerings.

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Skype for Windows 8: A “New” Skype Experience http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/skype-for-windows-8-a-new-skype-experience/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/ip-based-communications/skype-for-windows-8-a-new-skype-experience/#respond Fri, 26 Oct 2012 12:00:00 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=7805 Earlier this week Skype announced a “New” Skype for Windows 8; Not Your Skype for Windows “Classic”.

Today Skype has launched, coincident with the launch of Microsoft’s  new Windows 8 operating system, Skype for Windows 8. It’s the first major Microsoft offering that basically embeds Skype into the entire Windows user experience. Access to Skype’s real time conversations is available on an ad hoc basis while also delivering notifications of incoming messages and calls.

Over the past few days I interviewed Piero Sierra, Skype’s Director of Program Management, who is responsible for the development of all Skype desktop and mobile products. I have also spent several hours on a “legacy” PC with a mouse, getting experience, first, with Windows 8 itself on a non-touch display and then with Skype for Windows 8.

First a few overview points:

Think of Skype for Window 8 as a Skype client for an independent operating system, deploying as unique a user interface as Skype for Mac, Skype for iOS, etc. It takes full advantage of the unique features of Windows 8 such as displaying apps in full screen, swiping horizontally across displays of tiles, contacts, applications and more, and using a unique “snap” feature to display two applications concurrently with one as the primary display and the other as a right or left sidebar display. As with Windows 8 itself, if you have a non-touch display, get ready to run your mouse to the corners and edges of your display.

Windows 8 has two basic modes: Windows 8 Modern (formerly “Metro”) and Windows Desktop. The latter is the more familiar Windows Desktop with the ability to display multiple windows, etc. In fact you can install and use Skype for Windows Classic in the Desktop mode. Switching between the two modes is simple and fast.

Win8.StartScreen2Windows 8 launches with the Windows 8 Start Screen, shown on the right, composed of tiles representing applications and folders. Click on a tile and the application launches. If Skype for Windows 8 is open, you will see a recent chat message, if closed, you will see simply the Skype logo on the Skype tile. Simply click on that tile and you are logged into the application. You will also see tiles for Desktop applications on this Start screen; if Skype for Windows Classic is installed, you will see a tile with the legacy “S” Skype logo.

While Skype for Windows 8 delivers a unique user experience, if you want the complete set of the legacy features of Skype, you will also want to install Skype for Windows Classic on the Desktop. More on this later.

Sierra outlined three goals for Skype for Windows 8:

  • Create an “always reachable” experience.
  • Make Skype “more beautiful” and easier to use
  • Centre the experience around people

Skype for Windows 8 remains “always reachable” in the background; in effect it is being designed for “extreme” mobile environments. It is architected to eliminate battery drain when there is no Skype activity. As a consequence it also minimizes CPU impact on desktop and laptop PC’s. As soon as a call or chat message comes in, a notification comes up on the display and you can act on it appropriately.

S4W8.TwoTaskManagers.However, when there is no Skype activity, Skype for Windows 8 takes advantage of a new Windows 8 feature, Windows Notification Services, to put Skype in a totally dormant mode when there is no activity. As a result it takes up no CPU cycles when not in use. In the example on the left, the top Task Manager image is when Skype is dormant but when I sent a chat message, Skype became active temporarily using some CPU cycles, as shown in the lower image. You can actually watch the CPU cycles drop to zero a few seconds after a message is sent.

While this feature speeds up general operation of Windows 8 applications on any device, it definitely has an impact on extending the battery life of mobile devices. Skype hopes to take advantage of similar features in iOS and Android to reduce the background activity, and increase the battery life, of the respective tablet and smartphone devices. In the image above, the second Skype process represents Skype for Windows Classic running in the Windows 8 Desktop, using CPU cycles even when not active.

S4W8.Presence.2ChoicesOne demand on user cycles in the past has been the need to keep up with presence status of all your Contacts; for those with several hundred contacts that can become a battery and CPU resource drain. Whereas previously Skype had five or six “presence” status settings, in Skype for Windows 8, there are only two settings: Available and Invisible. You can still enter a mood message which, at your discretion, can include more details about your status.

Once launched Skype opens up in a “dashboard” screen showing recent chat conversation excerpts, “Favorite” Contacts (order alphabetically) and several of your most recently active Contacts:S4W8.Dashboard

There are several points to note, employing Windows 8 Modern features incorporated into Skype for Windows 8 and built using the Windows 8 Design Language developed by Microsoft for its products, graphics and user interfaces:

Single application full-screen display (or “Windows 8 does not support windows”): when in Windows 8 Modern mode, any application written for Windows 8 only displays full screen. Each of the screens of Skype for Windows is a full screen display. Sometimes all that white background, especially on a large display, may want you to look for your sunglasses. But recall that, on any tablet, there is only one application in the display at any given time. It’s provides a focus on the task at hand without distractions, yet other applications are immediately available in the background with notification features to alert the user to new activity in real time.

However, there are some ways to show complementary information while in an application:

Left-right scrolling: Where a screen. such as Contacts shown below, have icons that go beyond the screen size, you can scroll left and right using either a swipe, on a touch screen or touchpad, or the scroll wheel on a mouse. What is shown below are my “L’ to “S” Contacts who were “Available” (i.e. Online) at the time of the screen capture. As seen at the upper left, there is an option to display all of your contacts. Scroll to the left to see the Contacts before “L” and to the right for those starting with “S” or later.

S4W8.Contacts.25Oct12

What is missing is the ability to “search” for a contact. Also the Contacts screen does not support “Lists” at this time.

Top of screen: on many of the Skype screens, such as during a conversation session or when on the Contact screen shown above, you can run your cursor to the top of the screen and right-click on the hand icon that appears. (Update: right click on a blank location on any Skype for Windows 8 screen and this banner will show up.) You will then see a banner showing the most recent conversations:

S4W8.Banner.Conversations

Click on any of the conversations and you move to that conversation on the full screen.

Snap: Windows 8 does contain a feature that allows you to display one application as a sidebar on the left or right of the display. It’s a fixed width but does lets you work with, say, a browser or Office document while continuing with a Skype conversation. In the example below, a Skype chat session is being followed while viewing a recent Voice On The Web post. During a voice or video call it displays the Contact’s avatar or video, with the ability to bring up a chat session.

S4W8.Snap.skype.Browser

The above are a few examples of how Skype for Windows 8 uses unique Windows 8 features to launch, manage and follow your conversations. in the end, it will be the end user who makes the call about being “more beautiful” and easier to use.  It’s not a huge learning curve, once you have mastered Windows 8 itself. I found switching between Windows 8 applications and the desktop to be snappy with minimal delays or hesitation.

As for a call itself: the image below comes from a video call with my website developer. It starts out full screen but you can use the third icon in the call management bar to bring up the chat session.

S4W8.BostonDV;VideoCall

S4W8.UserChatInfoWhen in a chat session, as shown on the right, are displayed icons for launching a voice or video call as well as the “+” icon for adding Contacts to create a group conversation. Below are the Contact’s phone information as well as his/her local time and mood message. Mousing and clicking over a phone number will launch a SkypeOut call.

One could go on forever about using Skype for Windows 8; however, at this point it’s probably best that users explore it and make the call on ease-of-use. The learning curve was fairly fast. Associated with the “easier-to-use” goal was making its operation more intuitive. Once you become familiar with Windows 8 gestures and mouse operations, in practice I found it fairly intuitive for finding contacts, launching conversations and answering inbound activity.

As for being People centred, the Skype for Windows 8 dashboard, shown above, has a focus on the most currently relevant contacts displaying excerpts of recent conversations, “Favorite” Contacts and the most recently contacted Contacts. It is also linked to the Windows 8 People application, a universal hub for accessing not only contact information but also following a contact’s other social networking application activities such as Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn.

Users log into Skype using their Microsoft account ID but since the user has already launched into Windows via the same ID, simply launch Windows 8, click on the Skype tile and Skype starts up and is available for launching conversations. No need to enter a password a second time.

Soon to come are linkages to Outlook.com, Windows Live Messenger. While there is no linkage to Facebook, one can interact with Facebook friends via the People application.

As for the features seen in Skype for Windows Classic: Skype for Windows 8 supports

  • instant messaging (Chat, two state presence, emoticons)
  • group chat
  • voice calling
  • group voice calling, with up to 25 participants
  • one-to-one video calling.
  • SkypeOut calls to the PSTN
  • SMS messaging

However, support for group video calling remains a work-in-progress at Skype along with screen sharing.  File transfer is also a work-in-progress but with today’s file storage services such as DropBox and SkyDrive, you can send a “share” link via an Instant Messaging chat session. Expect to see upgrades on a frequent basis to bring this all together as a total Skype experience.

Building Skype for Windows 8 required two Product Management teams (Windows 8 at Microsoft and Skype for Windows 8 at Skype) and two development teams (Microsoft Windows and Skype) to come together and figure out how to work as a team to produce the application. Apparently development started shortly after the Microsoft acquisition announcement  in May, 2011 and includes modifications to the the back end architecture combining the Microsoft Messenger back end and Skype’s p2p architecture to provide a more robust and reliable offering.

Most importantly, Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls remain free; SkypeOut calls require Skype Credit or a Skype Calling Plan.

Bottom line: Skype for Windows 8 introduces “always reachable”, “ad hoc” access to real time Skype conversations into the overall Windows user experience. It’s there when you need to launch conversations or receive calls regardless of the user’s active applications. Yet it places a reduced demand on a device’s CPU and battery resources when not needed.

While users can install and run Skype for Windows 8 during their overall Windows operation, you will also need Skype for Windows Classic on the Window 8 Desktop to have access to all of Skype’s features, especially file transfer, group video calling and screen sharing. Today’s Skype for Windows 8 is a “version 1.0” and, over time, we’ll see these features embedded into Skype for Windows 8. But there is nothing here that prevents access to all of Skype’s features on a Windows 8 PC.

Skype for Windows 8 comes pre-installed with Windows 8 on the twelve most popular PC hardware platforms; it is also available via the Windows Store.

Next week I will have access to a Surface tablet and report on Skype for Windows 8 on a touch screen display. Also there will be future posts covering more details about using Skype for Windows 8.

In the meantime, today’s launch represents the first time users can experience Skype for Windows 8 outside of Skype.  If you have worked with Skype for Windows 8, put your feedback into the comments.

In closing I need to acknowledge and thank my friend, Garry, who gave me access to his Windows 8 Evaluation PC in order to check out Skype for Windows 8.

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“New” Skype for Windows 8; Not Your Skype for Windows “Classic” http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-markets-skype-world/skype-for-personal/new-skype-for-windows-8-not-your-skype-for-windows-classic/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-markets-skype-world/skype-for-personal/new-skype-for-windows-8-not-your-skype-for-windows-classic/#respond Wed, 24 Oct 2012 12:15:24 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=7734 Two days ago Skype announced Skype for Windows 8– a new Skype for Windows user interface designed from the ground up to offer Skype as essentially an embedded application delivering real time conversations within the Windows 8 user experience. Skype provided a brief overview video:

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJQWJnnQzYU

along with some sample screen shots in the announcement post. Basically once installed from the Windows Store, Skype is accessed from the Windows 8 Start screen as a live tile. While using your Windows 8 PC or Surface tablet, Skype is always available in the background and notifying you of incoming chat messages as well as calls. But it’s integrated into the overall new Windows 8 user experience which has had mixed reviews.

Transitioning to Windows 8 is not the normal transition to a new Windows version and will have a learning curve that needs to be accepted by the Windows PC user base. Of course the major difference is that Windows 8 can also support touch screen devices, such as tablets and touch screen PC’s. One question is how does the focus on a touch-based device impact the user experience on the legacy PC?

What I have learned from posts on the Internet combined with the recent Skype 5.11 beta for Windows:

  • Skype for Windows 8 will be accessed through your Microsoft ID (which actually is required to launch Windows 8 itself). It will be necessary to merge your Skype account with your Microsoft ID/profile; if not already done, this happens the first time you use Skype for Window 8. Since the launch of Skype 5.11 beta for Windows I have been logged in through my MS account with no impact on my Skype activities. Keep in mind that this linkage implies that only the Skype account linked to your Microsoft ID can be running Skype for Windows 8; running or switching to a second Skype account would require Skype for Windows “Classic” on the Windows 8 legacy desktop.
  • Skype for Windows 8 will be “always on”, available in background. Hopefully the user will be able to manage the level of user ‘interruption” such that Skype notifications do not become an “annoying” disrupter of other Windows 8 activities.
  • Skype for Windows 8 supports Skype’s traditional features such as group chats, video calling and SMS messaging. Also calls can be placed to users on any Skype endpoint, PC’s, iOS/Android tablets (including Kindle Fire) and smartphones, TV’s, etc.
  • Windows 8 RT, along with Surface and other supporting tablets, is Microsoft’s first entry into the tablet market space. With the iPad and Android tablets, I have encountered many who use Skype on these devices as their main communications provider when traveling – usually by finding a WiFi access point. Also these devices can also have the potential to replace desktop phones in a business. Will Surface be in the competition amongst tablets to become the primary communications device for both personal and business use in the home or office, replacing legacy phone sets? Where will these devices be positioned relative to using a smartphone?
  • Skype for Windows 8 conversations can be launched through the Microsoft People application – an integrated “address book” or contact “hub” that incorporates social networking and other contact information. Outlook.com provides an initial indication of how the People application is intended to work.

Bottom line: Skype for Windows 8 represents the first deep integration of Skype into Microsoft offerings. Not only will Skype offer a new user experience; simply coming up to speed on the overall Windows 8 user experience will offer its challenges. Call it “New” Skype for Windows, available to launch and participate, on demand, in real time conversations while working with Windows PC’s and tablets.

Does it become a feature that helps justify Microsoft’s $8.5B acquisition of Skype and drives Microsoft revenues through Windows 8 adoption? Our only measures may be the increase in the monthly Skype user number, most recently reported in Microsoft’s quarterly report as now at 280 million along with the adoption rate of Windows 8.

Skype for Windows 8 will be available in the Windows Store on Friday, October 26 at the time of the Windows 8 launch.

As for the references to “New” and “Classic”: Some of my older followers will recall the introduction of “New Coke” in 1984; within a few weeks, Coke “Classic” appeared as a relaunch of the original Coke. Today we only see Coke “Classic” on the market. Let’s hope, in this case we see how the “New” and “Classic” Skype for Windows can complement each other in building the Skype user base.”

I hope to have more information for a post on launch day.

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Skype URI’s: Website, Email and Mobile App links to the Skype Client http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-markets-skype-world/skype-for-business/skype-uris-website-email-and-mobile-app-links-to-the-skype-client/ http://voiceontheweb.biz/skype-world/skype-markets-skype-world/skype-for-business/skype-uris-website-email-and-mobile-app-links-to-the-skype-client/#respond Thu, 27 Sep 2012 16:16:29 +0000 http://voiceontheweb.biz/?p=7531 While Skype addresses privacy issues in many ways, especially through the Tools|Options|Privacy settings in Skype for Windows (or Skype|Preferences|Privacy in Skype for Mac), there are times when a user will want to encourage contact via Skype. This is especially true for businesses that want to provide single click inbound calling for their sales and customer support activities.

Typically this is done by placing Skype links (technically called URI’s) on the business’s website and in email signatures. They could also be placed in LinkedIn, Facebook and mobile apps.

Yesterday Skype’s Chris Andrews wrote a Skype Developer post: Use Skype URIs to start Skype chats and calls from websites or mobile apps where he gives an overview of how to learn more about Skype URI’s, the critical links for launching Skype chats and calls from within a website, email signature or mobile apps. Chris gives a good overview in this paragraph.

The currently supported URIs include switching to the Skype client, initiating audio, video and conference calls and sending both individual and group instant messages. Skype URIs can even initiate calls to mobiles and landlines. Each of these URIs will work with any version of Skype running on Windows 7 and Mac OS X, and the latest versions of Skype for iPhone,Skype for iPad and Skype for Android.

Most interesting is the confirmed support of Skype’s mobile clients.

The post also gives a link to learning the details and getting started on the Skype’s Developer website. While this information has been available for some time, finally there is one reference point that provides all the information needed to initiate chat, voice and video conversations in this way. Note that the initiation process may involve some confirmation dialog boxes approving access to, and use of, the Skype client. Only the PC clients can support initiation of multi-party calls.

Of course you can also do this for Windows and Mac PC’s using Skype buttons as an alternative.

You’ll find my implementation by scrolling down in the sidebar.

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