So why has the widget in the Voice On The Web sidebar changed recently?
August 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.