Microsoft dropping Metro Skype app, going back to the desktop

Skype logoThere are currently two versions of Skype for Windows 8.1. One is the traditional desktop Skype app, known and loved (?) by millions around the world. The other is the modern-style app for the Metro environment. At the moment, the modern app is, like all other Metro apps, only usable in the full-screen Metro environment, though Windows 10 will free Metro apps from this constraint, letting them run in windows on the desktop.

But this situation is not going to continue. Microsoft is going to kill off one of the Skype apps. Naively, one might think that this would be the desktop app. The Metro app is, after all, built on the same technologies that are used for Universal Windows Apps—apps that can run on the desktop, on the phone, on the tablet, on the HoloLens, on the Surface Hub, and on the Xbox One.

Microsoft dropping Metro Skype app, going back to the desktop

This is the kind of application that Microsoft is heavily promoting to third-party developers. But it's apparently not the kind of application that the Skype team is interested in. What they announced today is not that they're killing off the desktop application, but rather the Metro one. From July 7, the Metro app will prompt users to install the desktop app, unless they're running the Metro app on Windows RT, in which case nothing changes for them.

From a purely functional perspective, if Microsoft is only to have one Skype application it does make sense to keep the desktop one. The desktop one has features like screen sharing and group video that the Metro app doesn't.

But it's still a little strange. The Skype team wrote that "it makes sense to use the Skype application optimized for mouse and keyboards use, capable of doing touch as well rather than 2 separate applications performing the same function." Not only is Microsoft promoting Universal Windows Apps as being capable of supporting mouse, keyboard, and touch all on an equal footing, but also the dual app approach—one Universal, one desktop—is precisely the one being taken by the Office team. The Universal apps, which run both on Windows 10 Mobile (for phones and small tablets) and regular Windows 10, have a reduced feature set but have an interface that's comfortable with both touch and mouse. The traditional desktop Office apps have many more features, but are virtually unusable with touch.

Making the Skype situation more complicated is that Windows 10 will integrate certain pieces of Skype functionality in its Messaging and Phone apps; there will also be built-in Skype-based video calling. This functionality will use Universal apps. So the duality won't go away entirely; there will still be multiple Skype user experiences that are split between being Metro-style and traditional desktop apps. It'll just be more complicated: instead of two all-in-one apps, there'll be one set of fragmented, "task-based" apps in the Metro world, and one all-in-one app for the desktop.

That desktop app is set to become richer still, as Microsoft will be adding support for Skype's integrated translation by the end of the summer.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Microsoft, Skype

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