Microsoft has released a preview version of its Skype software for desktop PCs that owes much of its look and feel to the iOS and Android versions of the app.
"For Mac, Windows 10 November Update and lower, Windows 8, and Windows 7 users, Skype Preview delivers most of the great features of our next generation mobile experience, but is specifically designed with desktop in mind to take full advantage of the larger screen," blogged Microsoft representatives on Aug. 17. "Skype Preview puts chat front and center—making this the most expressive Skype ever. Group chats are livelier with new features that improve your connection with friends and family."
In fact the new Skype for desktop computers borrows a lot from its mobile incarnations. It inherits many of the streamlined, chat-centric interface elements that previously set apart the Skype mobile apps from their desktop counterparts.The software also supports photo and screen sharing in real-time during group calls.
Although Skype is often used to keep in touch with friends and family, Microsoft hasn't forgotten those who routinely use the software to conduct business.
A new chat media gallery media pane helps users keep track of documents, links and other content that was shared during a text conversation. A notification panel enables users to keep tabs on important updates while support for so-called "@mentions" allows users to quickly jump into chats that involve them while juggling multiple conversations.
Some of these features have already begun to crop up in the Skype app for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Others can take the latest Skype preview for a spin by signing up for the Skype Insider early-access program.
Mobile users, meanwhile, can now use their Skype apps to send money to one another.
Earlier this month, Microsoft and PayPal announced peer-to-peer payment support on the iOS and Android versions of the Skype app. Using the Send Money add-in, users can now send and receive money between contacts in 22 countries, including the U.S., Canada and France.
The latest redesign comes as Microsoft faces renewed competition in the online and mobile video calling market, particularly in the enterprise space.
During Google's Cloud Next '17 conference in March, the company released Hangouts Meet to its G Suite customers. "Hangouts Meet is a new video meeting experience built on the Hangouts that can run 30-person video conferences without accounts, plugins or downloads," said Alison Wagonfeld, vice president of Marketing at Google Cloud, in a March 10 announcement.
"For G Suite Enterprise customers, each call comes with a dedicated dial-in phone number so that team members on the road can join meetings without WiFi or data issues," continued Wagonfeld.
Google's new Hangouts Chat feature enables businesses to set up dedicated virtual rooms to encourage communication among cross-functional teams. It supports Drive, Docs and other G Suite apps, along with other third-party apps for content sharing. Finally, the company unveiled @meet, a bot that uses machine learning and natural language processing to automatically schedule meetings using Hangouts Meet and Google Calendar.
Although Google keeps expanding Hangouts' feature set, one handy capability was given the boot this spring. The company discontinued the SMS functionality in Hangouts for Android as of May 22, a move Google said would help streamline Hangouts and Gmail for Hangouts for enterprises.