Skype Gets Big Update

Skype is getting its biggest face-lift in years, ditching its light-blue theme for a customizable interface and features aimed at the way young people communicate, from emojis to a Snapchat-like recap of the day.

In addition to the cosmetic changes being made by Microsoft, the update modernizes Skype’s underlying infrastructure, years in the making, in an effort to give the service the reliability needed to compete with upstarts in the crowded world of communications software.

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The service’s former backbone — peer-to-peer connections that linked a caller to their target through a direct line — is being replaced in the update by Microsoft’s network of data centers. Some of users’ complaints about the service, including phantom notifications or calls that were missed entirely should – for the most part be resolved by this upgrade.

Skype, which Microsoft scooped up for $8.5 billion in 2011, was a pioneer in voice and video calls made over the internet, instead of wired telephone connections or cellular networks.

Today, such internet communications tools are commonplace, and some have lapped Microsoft’s product in usage.

Facebook Messenger and Facebook-owned WhatsApp each boast more than one billion users. China-focused QQ and WeChat aren’t far behind, and Google and Apple are both investing in communications tools tied to their expansive mobile platforms.

A year ago Microsoft said Skype had 300 million “monthly connected users,” little changed from 2013.

In addition to the new Snapchat-like “Highlights” feature that compiles recent photos and videos into a shareable reel, the update places greater emphasis on tools to find friends and quickly fires off emojis or reactions in response to chats and videos.

Automated chatbots, a push by Microsoft as it aims to build more intelligent software, have been given a prominent home in the new Skype. Through a text window, users can summon Expedia to search for flight prices, or ask StubHub about concert tickets. But that functionality remains limited, and many software developers are only now getting their hands on the tools to make such Skype bots.

The update will began going out late last week, first targeting mobile devices running Android and, afterward, iOS. The software is expected to make its way to the desktop edition this summer.

Skype’s workplace cousin, Skype for Business, isn’t affected by the change.

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Skype for Business Gets Better on Your iPhone

If you are a Skype for Business user – listen up – it just got better on your iPhone.

Skype for Business Offers Deeper Integration with iOS 10

Thanks to new integration capabilities in iOS 10, Skype for Business calls can work the same way as the native calling experience on Apple’s devices. This, Microsoft says, means you can now seamlessly extend your personal device as a business phone.

So, what does this mean to users?

Lock screen support. You can now accept an incoming Skype for Business call directly from the lock screen. So you no longer need to sign-in and launch the app to receive calls. Skype for Business calls will appear and behave just as regular cellular calls do—including being able to see the caller’s name on the lock screen, Microsoft notes.

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Integrate Skype for Business into your device’s call interface. Now, you can access Skype for Business from the calling interface with just one touch: There’s a new Skype for Business button right in the iOS screen for calls.

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Switch between cellular calls, Skype for Business calls, and other VoIP calls. You can now switch between calls across Skype for Business, your personal cellular line and other VoIP applications that support this new iOS 10 functionality. “If you are in an important Skype for Business conversation and receive an incoming cellular call, you can send the second call to voicemail or put the Skype for Business call on hold to accept the incoming cellular call,” Microsoft notes. “You’ll also see Skype for Business calls in your phone’s call history.”

Handle incoming cellular calls while using Skype for Business. While you’re using Skype for Business, you can now send incoming cellular calls to voicemail or put the Skype for Business call on hold to accept the incoming cellular call.

IT control. The new Skype for Business features are enabled by default on IOS 10. But IT admins who prefer to disable this functionality can do so to a granular level. For example, you may not wish for Skype for Business calls to appear in the native iOS call log.

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Skype for Business is available for iPhone and iPad from the Apple App Store.

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Technology Training for November 10, 2016

Today’s Technology Training shared for all of our dedicated readers.

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Skype on the Web with No Plugins Arrives on Edge

Skype now works in Microsoft Edge without any plugins or downloads whatsoever.

Skype now works on the Web without plugins, but only if you use Edge

Skype first announced it was working on compatibility with ORTC technology – a standard for video streams over the Web – back in late 2014. Meanwhile Edge, became compatible with the technology last September, so this week’s announcement is not a big surprise to those who monitor such things.

While you could use Skype on the Web before, you needed to install a plugin for calls to work. Now you can simply open a conversation on Skype for Web, Outlook.com, Office Online or OneDrive natively through Edge, no additional set-up process required.

This being understood, the other person you are talking to must be on the latest version of Skype for Windows or Mac. It also does not appear that you can call someone on Android or iOS at the moment.

This is another step in making Skype accessible from more devices, following Skype for Web, and the ability to call anyone via a simple URL.

As for other browsers, Microsoft reports that they are working on bringing interopability with Chrome and Firefox, “once they both support the H.264 video codec.”

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