Microsoft Simplifies Skype Bot Management on iOS
iPhone and iPad users get a new bot-discovery feature. Meanwhile, the "cloud-first" company gets ready to move on from Skype's peer-to-peer past.Microsoft released a new update for the iOS version of Skype (6.20) to the Apple App Store this week that enables iPhone and iPad users to find and organize bots similar to the way they already manage their flesh-and-blood contacts. Skype bots made their official debut at this spring's Build developer conference in San Francisco. Although the first handful of bots for the platform are limited in their usefulness, like helping users search the Web using Bing and play text games, Microsoft envisions that one day, with the help of other technologies like the company's virtual assistant Cortana, Skype bots will help users book trips, manage their calendars and shop online, among a wide variety of other tasks. This week, Microsoft is taking an early step in helping iOS users prepare for the potential onslaught of Skype bots. "You'll notice that in this release we've added a bot icon to the 'Recents' header, which makes discovering bots really simple," blogged the Microsoft Skype team. "Just tap the icon to open the list of Skype Bots you can start chatting to. We've also made it possible to favorite a bot, so you can always find it at the top of your Skype contact list," continued the company's staffers. Apart from the new bot-management capabilities, version 6.20 of the app also includes more responsive notifications and improved voice messaging, according to Microsoft.
Last month, the software giant announced that it had acquired Wand Labs, a messaging app maker that specializes in integrating third-party services like Spotify and Yelp into chat-based experiences, for an undisclosed amount. In a June 16 announcement, David Ku, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Information Platform group, said the startup's "technology and talent will strengthen our position in the emerging era of conversational intelligence, where we bring together the power of human language with advanced machine intelligence—connecting people to knowledge, information, services and other people in more relevant and natural ways."