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Why Skype Just Hung Up on Windows Mobile

In what I hope is not a sign of things to come from other software makers, InformationWeek is reporting that Skype has pulled the Windows Mobile version of its software. Skype (s ebay) will still run on Microsoft’s (s msft) handsets for customers that have it installed, but you won’t be able to download and install the software going forward. Considering that Microsoft recently announced the new Windows Phone 7 Series with a fresh, new UI and environment, it’s easy to assume that Skype is writing off  the “legacy” Windows Mobile platform. That doesn’t appear to be the case, though. Here’s what you’ll find on the Skype FAQ page on Skype for Windows Mobile:

“We’ve chosen to withdraw Skype Lite and Skype for Windows Mobile because we want to offer our new customers an improved mobile experience – much like the version that has proved so popular on the iPhone, and which is now available on Symbian phones. Our focus is on providing a rich user experience that allows you to enjoy free Skype-to-Skype and low cost calls as easily on the move as you do at your desktop.
We felt that Skype Lite and Skype for Windows Mobile were not offering the best possible Skype experience.”

It’s that last sentence that captures what I think is the essence of this move — “…not offering the best possible Skype experience.” A perfect example of that is the audio output issue that for years has plagued Skype for Windows Mobile users. I can remember as far back as 2006 trying to use Skype on a WinMo phone only to have the audio conversation broadcast through the speaker for all the world to hear. The Skype development team simply couldn’t guarantee a consistent experience in a case like this because their software could only access the correct speaker if a handset manufacturer included a specific API. Without a phone-specific hack or additional software, Skype simply couldn’t offer the best possible experience. It was beyond their control.

Since the problem has been around for years, I’m surprised that Skype didn’t hang up this software sooner. On the other hand, it’s been a problem for this long, so why kill it now? The only reasons I can think of are that the company is simply tired of getting bashed over an issue that’s beyond its control and because it will now focus support and development on a Windows Phone 7 Series client. Given that Microsoft is standardizing the chassis designs and hardware requirements, Skype may have a better chance to offer the solid experience it’s striving for.

Note that Skype Lite for mobiles — and I assume Android (s goog), since I haven’t seen it in the Android Market for some time — is also on the disabled list. That actually does surprise me. This client geared for Java-based phones only debuted about a year ago. Perhaps Skype is changing focus and evolving its business model — instead of targeting device platforms and end users, maybe we’ll see more deals with carriers like the recent one with Verizon (s vz).

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Could Skype in Your Pocket Beat the iPod Touch?

24 Responses to “Why Skype Just Hung Up on Windows Mobile”

  1. Stuart

    I read rumors about Nokia and Skype coming out with a Skype-branded phone and perhaps much deeper Skype integration in all it’s new handsets. Perhaps that is the reason behind the move to give up on other mobile platforms.

  2. I didn’t quite want it to be, but with Windows Phone 7 Series (seriously, can’t they shorten that name?) as it is, it might as well be because the new OS basically threw out what I liked about Windows Mobile to be more like its trendier competitors. At this point, I might have to ditch all my paid software for a dead platform AGAIN (I made the mistake of going Palm OS 5 before Windows Mobile, and I switched in the pre-iPhone days because the former didn’t have a Web browser worth anything, among other things), and to what, I don’t know yet. At this rate, it looks like it’s either going to be Maemo/MeeGo/whatever or maybe Android if it’s easy to develop for and I can make it do EXACTLY what I want.

    Back on track-while I still have the Skype .cab installers, I don’t know yet if Skype will cut out all access from those clients entirely. That would just leave my PSP Slim/2000 for mobile Skype use when I don’t want to lug around the Gateway E-295C, and the PSP client doesn’t support the IM portion of Skype that I tend to use fairly heavily.

    • Keep those .CABs. You can still use Skype on Windows Mobile going forward. From the FAQ page:

      “Can I still use Skype for Windows phones if I already have it?
      Yes. People who have already installed Skype for Windows phones can of course continue to use it.”

  3. I don’t see how this trend of theirs of moving to make deals with carriers is a good thing at all. It almost feels like they are selling out to the highest bidder as a way to get more incoming through the door, and any kind of deal which limits who can use the software goes against the spirit (or so it seemed) of what Skype was about, bringing connectivity across the board and being agnostic to the carriers.

    From the sounds of the deal too, it sounds like there will be a Skype Android app for Verizon, but not for any other carrier of Android phones. Now we’re smart enough to know that once the APK gets out there, I don’t see how they can keep it from being put on any phone (that “open” nature of Android), and for the moment, I have backed up my Skype Lite so I can reinstall it whenever I want.

    As primarily a Sprint user, definitely feeling left in a lurch right now by this money grab.

  4. I’m just glad I got the heads up so I could download version 3.0 and squirrel it away for future use. Sure, Skype for WM has flaws, but it’s still usable and I’d hate to not have it on my WM device – imperfect as it is.

  5. Skype’s had a lot of problems that have hung around for a long time. Terrible quality communicating with the PTSN network, not fixed for years. They have lost my revenue to SIP services, and fortunately WM supports SIP quite well.

  6. Well, I agree with GoodThings2Life that it might have been better to simply replace with the upgrade when it’s ready, but who knows what kind of decision they made on that behind the scenes.

    However, I agree that, if they are indeed going to make a new version for winmo7, it’s ok to cut off the old OS–particularly since they’ve had such problems with the old version. There comes a time to move on and forget the past. For windows mobile, that time is now.

  7. You’re correct that Windows Mobile is dead. It’s Windows Phone 7 Series going forward. ;) Seriously, your point about the “meat” behind the scenes for the new platform is accurate. There’s more that we don’t know about it than we do know.

  8. I feel its a bit of an unfortunate move.

    Yes, I agree that the Skype option on WM was / is suboptimal especially for devices with less then 400Mhz Processors and the Speaker issues are a Pain.

    However, If you are someone who relays on Skype for communication for both Work and Business, not having an official client is a complete pain (as it has been for the Blackberry Platform) especially if you sue it for both Voice and IM.

    Yes there are alternatives (Fring is very Nice) however, unless people know about alternatives they are not going to know how to get to the alternatives.

    And Writing of a Platform like WM 6/6.5 which is going still going to have a lot of deices in users hands for years to come looks like a bit of a boneheaded decisions. Couldn’t they just put it in a Separate section like some companies do of Software that is no longer supported but is kept available for customers convenience. Or admit defeat and Point to other companies that are providing Skype support on WM so that users that come to Skype looking for a solution can actually find one.

  9. GoodThings2Life

    What doesn’t make sense to me is why they’re pulling the existing software… why not just let people continue to use it and then replace it with the “new version” when it’s available?

    • I suspect they’re pulling support so they don’t have to officially support it any more. Sounds like a management decision to me.

      Personally I never had a Windows Mobile phone, but both my parents did at different stages and they absolutely hated the interface. WiMo 7 may be too little too late to get back people like that, and perhaps Skype doesn’t see a market for it. Maybe time will tell.

    • I originally thought the same thing, and maybe they’ll backtrack or leave the download link up but not display it prominently. I think they’re simply tired of the beating they’ve received over the years. The Skype forums are FILLED with rants about the speaker issue on Windows Mobile devices, but most posters don’t realize that it’s out of Skype’s control. And maybe it’s a bit of a message to Microsoft about Windows Phone 7 Series — standardize, but let us access the hardware we need to for our services.

    • Prediction: in the next 3 months, Skype will announce that full support for WinMo 7 is “in development” after receiving a largish undisclosed payment from Microsoft.

  10. Skype not going after an Android version is like shooting themselves in the head.
    Dell mini 5 is not the last device using Android to also have front facing web-cam and video conferencing.
    This is the future and they may be missing the train if they are not planning Android as their next big release.


  11. Exciting times ahead, hope your camera is ready to capture the developments.
    For all you N900 users, Pianobar is so much better now, the last thing I need to completely retire my Iphone is turn-by-turn navigation, and maybe video calls on skype :), although if you initiate the call on Gtalk from a computer you do get video calls on the N900, not the best, but it sure shows promise.