With WebRTC making rapid gains and potentially meaning some big problems in the making for Skype (News - Alert), Skype is pulling out the stops and putting a fresh shine on its Windows Phone 8 operations. It's doing so in a way that users will be happy to see: starting today, version 2.4 of Skype for Windows Phone (News - Alert) 8 will come with an extra valuable feature in the form of high-definition video support.
Just how Skype for Windows Phone 8 is accomplishing this video boost is actually pretty exciting in and of itself; it's taking advantage of the hardware acceleration tools built into Windows Phone 8 to upgrade the video transmissions of Skype. While the upgrade isn't universal—lower-end devices will be delivering VGA video only—the higher end of the spectrum as far as specs go will yield the new 720P video, according to word from Skype. Phones like the Samsung (News - Alert) Ativ S, the Nokia Lumia 920, and the HTC 8X can get in on the action.
The video quality is also partially determined by the speed of the available connections, and is detected and established automatically, so users won't even have to do much to get the upgraded connection, assuming it's available for them to get in the first place. Users will be able to switch, as needed, between portrait and landscape mode, and can use their choice of the front or the rear camera to make their video chats. Even better, with Skype contacts displayed in the Windows Phone People Hub, users will no longer need to launch Skype to make a call to those contacts, instead accessing them directly from the Hub. Users can even switch between different user accounts—great for those who have business and personal contacts on the same phone—for their Skype calling. Those who had problems receiving notifications from Skype while the app was closed will be also happy to discover that the problem has been fixed, according to reports.
While it's scarcely no surprise that Skype wants to improve its app's functionality and its reliability among users, the newest upgrades and fixes should go a long way in doing just that. The issue of WebRTC making inroads, and making something of a populist appeal by going straight for the browser market likely has Skype—and by extension Microsoft (News - Alert)—a bit concerned. After all, if users are able to make their calls and connections right from a browser, what use is there in a special app to do the job like Skype?
But Skype has one advantage to its credit: a current user base. A current user base who is already pretty happy with Skype, and with some clear issues that could stand correcting that Skype is visibly working to correct. Skype looks to want to make the best experience it can bring out, and that's the kind of thing that's likely going to insulate at least some of it from the losses that WebRTC may well bring around.
Sure, there will be some who jump ship. The convenience of operating from a browser without the need for apps and plugins will be too great to resist. But Skype is making its presence known, and making it clear that it's going to work to provide the kind of service and value its users want. That's the kind of thing that will keep some fence-sitters from jumping ship, and the kind of thing that keeps a platform viable even in the face of a whole new paradigm that might ultimately change the face of communications as we know them.
Edited by Brooke Neuman