Feature by feature, Microsoft's Skype is becoming a full communications suite. Microsoft announced Monday that its video messaging function, where users can leave videomail as well as voicemail, has now moved out of beta into general release.
The new, free feature is available for Skype versions on Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry. Users can send and receive as many video messages as desired, with no charge. The preview version of Skype video messaging was launched in May. However, users were limited in preview to 20 free messages, after which a Skype Premium subscription was required.
On a posting on its official Skype blog, Microsoft's Yasmin Khan wrote of the possible use cases. "Want to say goodnight to your kids while traveling, but you'll be up in the air? Need to wish your dad a happy birthday, but can't seem to catch up? Spot something interesting while you're out and about, and want to share with your friend?"
Skype for Windows 8
To do so, a user simply taps the "video message" button, clicks the record button to capture the video message, and then records up to three minutes. Messages can be previewed before sending, and, if so desired, deleted and re-recorded before sending.
Some of the video messaging features are still to be completed, however. For example, although video messages should show up in chat history, they do not currently. Additionally, there is a reported bug in some situations where the thumbnail image for a video message sometimes leads to the record function instead of playback.
Although Skype was a major pioneer in free, voice-and-video-over-IP communications, competing communication apps are popping up all over. Startups include Glide and Viber, which offer features for non-synchronous video communications, and in this environment, Microsoft has been rushing to get out new Skype features and versions.
Earlier this month, for instance, Microsoft launched a new version of Skype for Windows 8, which offered more support for high-def video and, in preview, an improved video messaging.
Skype and Lync
In late May, the initial stage of integration was completed between Skype, the consumer IM/telephony service, and Lync enterprise communications. While Skype was and remains primarily a consumer-facing product, Microsoft has touted it as being complementary to its existing Lync product. But the company has also been building a small-business side to Skype, such as its Skype for Business version.
In February, when the plans for Lync-Skype integration were laid out, Skype division president Tony Bates said that the interoperability was enabling what he called "B2X," which "places the focus of business communication on enabling human interactions."
When Microsoft bought Skype, many industry observers wondered if the company was throwing its money away. Now, the Skype division is approaching the revenue level of Microsoft's SharePoint unit. In the corporate market, Microsoft is competing with Cisco for Net-based communications and telephony, which is expected to be a market worth nearly $15 billion within three years.