Microsoft Adds SMS to Skype's Messaging Toolkit

Skype users can respond to SMS and MMS communications sent to their phones—that is, if they own the right handset—a Windows phone configured with Skype.

Microsoft, Skype, SMS

Microsoft has released a new preview build of Skype for Windows 10 PCs and smartphones that enables users to reply to Short Message Service (SMS) and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) texts. Essentially, the latest Skype client allows Windows 10 PC users to answer texts without needing to grab their phones.

"With this feature, you can send and receive SMS and MMS messages directly from a Windows 10 PC when Skype for Windows 10 Mobile is set as the default messaging app," blogged Microsoft's Skype team. "SMS relay eliminates the problem of your phone being out of reach. Send and receive texts, group messages, and photos directly from your computer with a single view of SMS and Skype conversations."

The rub is that most users are unlikely to own the type of smartphone required for the feature to work, at least for now.

The new SMS relay feature in Skype Preview 11.9 requires not only a PC with the new software, but also a Windows 10 Mobile device configured with Skype as its default messaging app. Needless to say, Windows phones have limited market share.

Just over 84 percent of all smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2016 ran the Android and 13.6 percent ran Apple iOS, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics. The remaining 2.3 percent was shared among Microsoft Windows and other non-mainstream mobile operating systems.

"BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows Phone have all but disappeared due to strategic shifts, while Tizen and other emerging platforms softened as a result of limited product portfolios and modest developer support," Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, said in a statement.

While the majority of users may miss out on the new SMS relay functionality, that may someday change. Microsoft revealed that the company is working on enabling the feature on Android "in the future." Also in the works is a new Skype integration with the upcoming MyPeople hub in the Windows 10 Creators update.

Meanwhile, users of the consumer Skype app can now contact Skype for Business users directly, a major step in the company's multiyear effort to unify its consumer and enterprise communications technologies.

Now, users can search Skype using a contact's work email address. If found, users can send a contact request, which the recipient sees in the Skype for Business client. Upon accepting the request, both consumer and corporate customers can use Skype's voice, video, instant messaging and status-relaying services to communicate with one another.

Other enhancements include the ability to drag and drop images and other content of up to 300MB in size directly into the chat pane and view image previews of shared URLs. Updated contact profile pages allow users to quickly manage their address books (add, remove and block), start a chat session or place Skype calls. On Windows Mobile, the app offers better back-button navigation and now defaults to a device's speaker in video calls.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...