Tag Archives: Skype

Skype Sees a Major Network Overhaul, Moves to Linux Supernodes

Microsoft has replaced a major part of Skype’s network by replacing its 48,000 P2P supernodes with a set of centralized Linux boxes. This change was done over two months ago as a security measure. The Linux boxes are being hosted by Microsoft itself and this is the first such network change inside Skype, since it started operating in 2003.

The change has been analyzed by Kostya Kortchinsky over at Immunity Security. Microsoft is yet to confirm the research’s findings, but it has released a statement to Ars Technica saying,

skype

As part of our ongoing commitment to continually improve the Skype user experience, we developed supernodes, which can be located on dedicated servers within secure datacenters. This has not changed the underlying nature of Skype’s peer-to-peer (P2P) architecture, in which supernodes simply allow users to find one another (calls do not pass through supernodes). We believe this approach has immediate performance, scalability and availability benefits for the hundreds of millions of users that make up the Skype community.

Microsoft has probably made this move to prevent outages like these. Currently, there are little over 10,000 supernodes, all hosted centrally by Microsoft. Unlike earlier, when users with sufficient bandwidth were upgraded to supernode status, the new strategy does not make supernodes out of users.

Seven months into ownership of Skype, and Microsoft is already making changes to it. Although it is not trying to port any existing infrastructure to its own technology stack immediately, there is a fair chance of that happening and when that happens, undoubtedly, Azure will be the way to go for Skype.

Read Kortchinsky’s report here.

Skype for Windows Phone 1.0 Released, No Longer In Beta

Following a particularly long wait — leading up to a private beta in February of this year, during which the product version was 0.2 — Microsoft has finally released Skype for Windows Phone 1.0 to the Marketplace.

The new release packs some optimizations and improvements, according to WPCentral, including the ability to search for and add contacts and call landlines. However, the unfortunate limitation that prevents you from leaving a call running in the background while “out” of the app, performing other tasks on your phone persists.

We can only hope that this issue will be rectified come Windows Phone 8, perhaps with deeper OS integration of Skype to boot. Microsoft explained the limitation to The Verge, saying that it is due to “a combination of how Skype works and how the Windows Phone OS works.” This is quite unfortunate, really, as those on iOS and Android will be able to enjoy Skype calls running in the background on their devices. Considering Microsoft acquired the company, it isn’t exactly thrilling to see such an important feature working on every platform but their own.

Nevertheless, it’s still good to hear that Skype for Windows Phone has now been released. Let’s just hope that they aspire to resolve this issue with — or maybe even before — Apollo.

Microsoft Seeking Skype For Xbox Software Engineer

Ever since Microsoft acquired Skype last year, there has been speculation that the company was going to bring Skype to the Xbox. And a new job posting on Microsoft Careers that Enconnected spotted pretty much confirms that this is the case. The listing is seeking a Software Engineer to join a dedicated Skype Xbox Engineering team in London, particularly one who has a great startup mentality:

Skype is seeking a motivated Software Engineer with an unrelenting drive for working on and solving customer-based issues. As a member of the Skype Xbox Engineering Team in London, you will have a strong technical background developing client and/or embedded software. Success in this role will likely be driven by your technical understanding, passion for shipping product, a user focus and an Agile approach to software development. The ideal candidate loves software and has a passion for writing code that addresses real customer issues and needs.

We didn’t exactly need confirmation that Skype was headed to the Xbox; ever since the acquisition, it was kind of a given that Microsoft would try to bring Skype to all of its products for the most part. Microsoft has already brought Skype to the Windows Phone in the form of a beta, but it could use quite a fair bit of work. For example, you cannot leave a call running in the background while performing actions on the device.

Skype Ad Campaign Bashes Twitter, Facebook

On Monday, Skype kicked off a new $12 million dollar ad campaign in the United States and United Kingdom which knocks Twitter and Facebook as methods of communication, touting Skype as a far better alternative. “140 characters doesn’t equal staying in touch” is one of the lines that the campaign will use to outline the differences between Skype and the two major social networks.

And, starting April 19th, a less provocative digital ad campaign will launch across 17 sites including CNN, BBC, Facebook, Lonely Planet, AOL, Yahoo, Wired, MSN, Mailonline, iVillage, CBS, and Hulu.

“A lot of people have great stories to tell about using Skype with friends and family, but they often see us as a one-dimensional product,” said Francie Strong, a Skype marketing director. “We’re proud of our video calls, but we also want them to know about our other products: screen-sharing, group video, file transfer, instant messaging, calls to mobile and landlines. The combination of features allows a more natural conversation.”

I’ve always been curious about how normal people use Skype. I think that describing it as a one-dimensional product is quite fitting; Skype is often used just for talking to family and friends who are far away occasionally, and this is what it’s notorious for. So, in that sense, spreading the word about some of Skype’s other features definitely sounds like a good idea. But is this the right way to go about it?

The campaign is admittedly provocative, with Strong stating that “The focus is on big, bold statements to grab people’s attention and get them to think about how they communicate.” Justin Cox of Pereira & O’Dell — the agency which has developed this campaign for Skype — did note that this is more than just a provocative, attention-grabbing campaign:

“It was depressing and inspiring. It’s rare that a campaign gives you the opportunity to address very relevant, timely cultural issues. Skype isn’t solving the world’s problems, but it has a point of view. This is more than just a marketing message with provocative headlines — our message is to help people truly connect in a genuine way.”

Recently, I’ve been mulling over how most people use Skype. I consider myself a heavy user of everything but video calls; I use Skype very heavily for voice calls,, and, consequently, its instant messaging and file transfer functionality (to share links and other content with the entire group in the call). I also occasionally use screen-sharing and mobile/landline calling (I have a subscription). Most of the group voice calls are several hours long (and yes, they’re largely productive.)

So, as someone who uses Skype like that, it’s hard to imagine that some only use the service very lightly. As for the campaign? In terms of pointing out the communication benefits of making a Skype call over text communication via Facebook and Twitter, then sure, it’s a great campaign. But it shouldn’t come off as an attack; Skype is fundamentally different from Facebook and Twitter, and the marketing team needs to portray this without coming off as suggesting that Skype should be used instead of other services.

Of course, this isn’t the intended message from the marketing department, but some may wrongly infer this from the provocative taglines.

Bing And Skype Come Together

If you happen to both participate in Bing’s Rewards program and use Skype, then you’re in luck. Microsoft announced on Wednesday that Skype Credit will be added to the Bing Rewards redemption center; so for only 100 credits, you will be able to receive Skype credit worth 60 minutes of calling on Skype.

Sure, Skype-to-Skype is free, but having the ability to call landlines and mobiles, and send SMS messages through Skype is quite nice. You will also be able to set up a Skype to Go number and access Skype Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide. If you aren’t already signed up for the Bing Rewards program — which can be used for plenty of other rewards beyond Skype credit as well — then you should sign up here.

Recently, Bing and Skype came together in another way: The Bing Bar is offered to users during Skype installation. This is a far worse promotion to come out of the collaboration of both teams in contrast to the awesome Bing Rewards for Skype credit promo.I mean, seriously, a web toolbar… that’s offered during the installation of software.

Nevertheless, Liz Tassey Gerber, the Director of Bing and MSN Engagement Marketing concluded her blog post telling us to keep our eyes peeled for more exciting new stuff to come out of the Bing + Skype relationship.

Short Review: Skype Beta For Windows Phone 7

Yesterday during Nokia’s keynote at the ongoing Mobile World Congress 2012 Microsoft released a beta version of Skype for Windows Phone 7. It took the company a while to come up with the version and there is some room for improvement. I downloaded the app and gave it a short try, here’s what I’ve found.

The good:

  • Can be used on first-gen Windows Phone 7 devices
  • Does not require a front-facing camera
  • Pleasant interface (animations for the splash screen and notification are subtle and nice)
  • App supports landscape mode for chat
  • Panoramic navigation within the video call—this is pretty cool

Now for the bad:

  • The app does not run in the background; you’re online as long as the app is open
  • No push notifications

The app’s inability to run in the background is a deal break. However, being beta I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two features in the final version. Here are some screenshots of the app:

 

The audio calling and chat interfaces:

Skype WP7

Microsoft Releases Skype For Windows Phone Beta; Final Release Slated For April

The wait is now over for those of you who were eagerly anticipating Skype for Windows Phone; Microsoft has just announced that a beta of Skype for Windows Phone is now available on the Marketplace.

Allowing users to make audio and video calls to Skype contacts over 3G, 4G, or WiFi, along with calls to mobile phones and landlines with Skype Credit, the app has been tested and certified to provide the best possible experience when used on one of the following Windows Phone devices:

  • Nokia Lumia 710
  • Nokia Lumia 800
  • HTC Titan
  • HTC Radar
  • Samsung Focus S
  • Samsung Focus Flash

This is only the beginning for Skype for Windows Phone…it’s just going to get better and better. We see incredible potential to include Skype capabilities in Windows Phone in order to enable a great experience for you.

You may snag Skype on the Windows Phone Marketplace either through the web-based Marketplace, or through Zune. The final version of Skype for Windows Phone is set to be released sometime in April.

 

What’s new in Skype 5.8

Skype 5.8 was released last week. There was a buzz of activity as Microsoft released an update to the Windows version of Skype. This bodes well for the direction that their partnership is taking.  If you had enabled  the option to check for the latest version enabled (under Help > Check for Updates), then you will  receive notifications about the latest version.

You can also download the latest version here.

HD video calling

A wonderful new world of clear video chat is open for all those who have atleast 2 Mbps download speeds. They have also specified that you would need to own an HD camera like the Logitech C920 webcam.

 Group screen sharing

You can share your screen or a single application window with other members in a conference call. Check this option under “+” > Share my screen. Unfortunately, group video conference is still not free. I prefer Google+ hangout over this. However, there is no question that Skype rules if quality matters.

Audio and video calling for Facebook friends

My favorite new feature that allows you to call your friends on Facebook even if they are not on Skype.

Push to Talk

It has hot keys that enable the microphone. Check out this option under Tools > Options > Advanced > Hotkeys. This feature is supposed to be useful for gamers who can use it to mute or unmute the microphone.

Bing Bar Integration

This is the fruit of the set up between Microsoft and Skype. This feature has not been elaborated in their release notes.

End Note

As usual, Skype has the “automatically sign into skype option” enabled. This can be removed under under Tools > Options > General Settings.

Do not forget the upcoming Windows Phone 8 (aka Apollo) that will include great new features like NFC (Near Field Communication), Data Smart (to prioritize Wifi connections), will no doubt have Skype strongly wrapped up in the package too. The new Windows Phone OS is quite amazing already. Having arrived late into the mobile industry, it is very important that Microsoft differentiates its products very definately.

 

Skype Easter Egg for Comic Sans Font

It is a well known fact that “Comic Sans” is the most hated font on the internet. In fact, there are several websites such as bancomicsans.com and more which show their hatred towards it. Why? Read here.

However, I haven’t seen any application or website as such dissing the use of the font. However, it looks like Skype has a hidden Easter egg which disses the usage of the Comic Sans font.

Skype Comic Sans Easter Egg

What’s the Easter Egg? Well, Skype gives users an option to change the font of the IM & SMS window through the “Options” menu. If you change the font to Comic Sans, it changes the smiley available in the message area to a frowning face.

Skype Smiley Face for Fonts

Changing the font back to anything else changes the smiley back smiling face. That is very sneaky Skype, guess they have a lot of Comic Sans haters in their programming department. What do you think? Do you hate Comic Sans too?

(via 9gag)

My 2012 Wish List for Windows Phone

Windows Phone

I have been using Windows Phone virtually from launch day, and have been patient with the team about so many things that have been missing from the OS. Windows Phone 7.5, aka Mango, addressed a lot of my complaints, but now I have another, deeper set of functionality (and wishes!) I’d like to see implemented.

The following is my wish list for Windows Phone for the year 2012. Given that one of the wishes is for more frequent updates, I am hoping some of the functionality gaps are filled sooner than later.

Ecosystem

  1. Market share: First and foremost, I’d like to see Windows Phone get to a decent market share. The stars have aligned nicely with RIM dying a slow death, and webOS being killed by HP for Windows Phone to be easily positioned as the #3 platform. However, it would be a pity if the 3rd-biggest  platform is at 5% with iOS and Android making up 95% of the market. It would be better if Windows Phone could get to 10-15% or above to really make it relevant. Education at carrier stores, more incentives for carrier salespeople, Nokia’s Rolling Thunder campaign, expansion to new markets, etc. should help.
  2. More Silicon Valley startup involvement: Most startups are not going to devote time to building Windows Phone apps with its market share around 1.5%. It simply does not make financial sense. I would like to see the Microsoft developer relations/evangelism folks to embed themselves in such startups and help them build the next cool appfor Windows Phone in addition to iOS/Android. For that, this evangelist team will have to work closely in Silicon Valley (and perhaps New York) to identify the companies which are doing great things in the mobile space and help them as early as possible in their lifecycle.
  3. Get existing marquee apps at par with iOS/Android counterparts: Microsoft would like us to believe that 90% of the top iOS/Android apps are available for Windows Phone. That may be arguable, but even existing apps like Facebook and Twitter have not seen updates to bring features at par with iOS/Android versions. For example, Facebook app does not support updating Groups or Twitter app (still) does not provide notifications. Also, given that some of these apps have been built by Microsoft, or even worse, by a third party, it is hard to understand who is to blame for the lack of functionality updates.
  4. Abandon the annual minor and major update cycle: Windows Phone has settled into a cycle where they have minor releases once a year and major updates once a year, each separated by about 6 months. While this is great for larger, non-mobile programs, it is absolutely slow in the mobile industry, especially for bug fixes and security updates. Until Windows Phone is  at  par with iOS and Android in terms of overall functionality, I don’t think they should settle down into a 6-month update cycle. Till then, the updates should be rapid, incremental and extremely frequent.