Why Skype Just Hung Up on Windows Mobile

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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 will still run on Microsoft’s 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, 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.

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

Could Skype in Your Pocket Beat the iPod Touch?

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