Comment: A Microsoft/ Skype Fiasco (no decent Skype client for Windows Phone 7.8)

30. December 2012 16:17 by Chris in Windows Phone  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (2)

Sometimes, more frequently than shoulf eb the case, it seems like Microsoft's left hand doesn't know what their right hand is doing, or an alternative idiom might be " it's arse from it's elbow".

So Microsoft buys Skype. It starts improving the integration with it's other products and service. I've never been a big Skype user but in part prompted by Microsoft's purchase I think it might be a good idea to get a Skype number for business calls. Rather than use my old, personal account I spot the fact that I can now sign in with (one of) my Microsoft logins - "Windows Live" I think is the current vernacular if marketing haven't changed it since last I looked. Great. This seems sensible - this should give me the option to pull in contcats from elsewhere ... should save some time and effort. The UI offers me the option to merge with an existing account - I don't go for this option as the UI doesn;t explain what exactly this means, and anyway surely I would be abel to perform a merge after regustration should I so choose?!

All good - I register, I buy my skype number. Side bar: it was impossible to find out how much this was goign to cost without going through the purchase process. Seems an OK price and there is a monthly option so I can see how it goes. All setup in a few minutes and I test the number and the allied voicemail. All good so I change the contact details on my email sig and website. Quite happy.

Oh dear though ... I go to my Nokia Lumia 800 to change the skype account to match the new one so that I may receive skype calls to my mobile and it doesn't accept the microsoft login or the accompanying autogenerated skype login. I must be doing something wrong - surely Microsoft wouldn't have cocked up like this? A quick google and yes, it seems this was a deliberate decision. I check for updates to the skype client - there haven't been any for months. I can't find any roadmap for OS/ device releases. I try the skype support twitter account - there is no response in 24hrs. So I fire off a support email. I keep it brief;):

There is no option on windows phone 7 skype client to login with a Microsoft account. Solution?

I am pleasantly surprised to receive a response within an hour or so. The response itself I am less happy with:

We understand that you wish to sign in to Skype using a Microsoft account on Windows 7. We'd be glad to look into this for you.

Unfortunately this feature is not currently available in Skype. 
We will pass on your request to our development team for consideration and potential inclusion in a future release.

Should any further issues arise, please feel free to contact us again.

Hmmm, Windows 7? Solution? Next email:

An entirely unsatisfactory response! It’s Windows Phone 7  and the question is outstanding – what is the recommended workaround solution to enable skype usage on win phone 7? E.g. do I need to create a new skype account and merge with the Microsoft account – will this work?

Skype support response (from different support person, continued quick response):

We understand that you want to sign in to Skype on your Windows 7 phone using your Microsoft account. We know how important this is for you, and we would like to inform you further about this issue.

To view your Microsoft contacts, you need to sign in using your Microsoft email address and password on Skype. Unfortunately, the option to do this is not yet available on your current device. Even if you merged your Microsoft account to a Skype account, you will still be required to sign in using Microsoft credentials to be able to view your Microsoft contacts.

Please accept our sincerest apologies on this matter, and we thank you for your patience and understanding.

 Which isn't actually my main issue. Next email:

Thanks for the rapid responses.

I don’t particularly mind if I don’t see my Microsoft related contacts – I can presumably set them up separately if I need to. What I would like to be able to do is receive Skype calls to my mobile via the Skype number I bought yesterday but which is currently associated with the Microsoft based account I also setup yesterday. I have a separate skype account ‘olops2000’ I have previously used but I created a new Microsoft linked account yesterday and did not merge accounts at the time as I was not made aware of the Window Phone limitation. Can the olops2000 account now me merged with the Microsoft account, for example, so that I may receive calls as above? If you can supply me a brief step by step as to how I currently can achieve this goal ether way that would be great.

Thanks in advance.

 Skype support's response:

We understand that you want to sign in using your Microsoft account so you can make use of the Skype Number that you have bought under your account. Please allow us to assist you with this issue.

Please be informed that your Microsoft account is currently merged to an automatically generated Skype ID live:chris.sully, which was created when you signed up for Skype using Microsoft credentials. You cannot use this Skype Name to log in nor can you reset the password for it. To access this account, you will need to use your Microsoft email address and password.

When we unmerge your accounts so that you may merge to an existing Skype account, please note that all purchases on the live:chris.sully account will be lost. Also, it is not possible to transfer purchases from one account to another. What we can recommend is that you use another device that supports logging in using a Microsoft account so that you may use the Skype Number that you have bought.

We hope you find this answer helpful. Should you need any further assistance or have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us again.

My turn:

Thanks for the clarity even though the situation is far from ideal.

Re: What we can recommend is that you use another device that supports logging in using a Microsoft account so that you may use the Skype Number that you have bought.

Is there a list of operating systems/ devices that support such functionality anywhere, i.e. a web page? Although given Microsoft now owns Skype I would hope/ expect the functionality would come to my device imminently? Would you be able to confirm if the functionality is planned for the next release of the Skype client for Windows phone 7.X (7.8 perhaps?) and/ or whether the functionality exists/ is planned for the Windows Phone 8 client? Also when these releases are scheduled for/ is there any ‘roadmap’  information available anywhere?

Thanks in advance.

Skype's turn (different person again):

Thank you for your reply.

We understand your concern that you want to know if you'll be able to log your Microsoft email in Windows phone 7.8 or 8. We'll be more than glad to further assist you.

Yes, you may use your Microsoft credentials on Windows phone 8. We're sorry that it's not available for version 7.8

Should any further issues arise, please feel free to contact us again.

So we get there in the end: another dead end for Windows Phone 7.X, even though Microsoft is now in charge! Rubbish!


Apps, Operating Systems and Devices

6. December 2012 16:00 by Chris in dev  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments (5)

The ratios of devices accessing content over the Internet has changed significantly over recent years. The chiefly impacting form factor here is the smartphone, with Apple driving matters with the iPhone and Android taking over in market share terms, and there are other players who will continue to attempt to challenge the current market dominance of the ‘big 2’ with perhaps the best bet being Microsoft though, admittedly, they have failed to make any significant impact with Windows Phone 7.X. This may change if Microsoft manage some decent and cross pollinating marketing of Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone 8. I’m not holding my breath though. Hands up who knows the difference between WinRT and Windows RT, for example?

Anyway, each phone operating system and surrounding ecosystem has its strengths and weaknesses and I won’t enter into related discussions here. What I shall consider is the messy situation we have with ‘app’ development. The term ‘app’ has entered common parlance though I’m unsure what the shared understanding of the term actually is. Certainly this has been driven into the collective consciousness by Apple’s ‘AppStore’, and subsequently by the misleadingly named ‘Google Play’. Therefore ‘app’ refers to applications that are designed to be run on mobile devices – initially smartphones and then more recently on tablet devices such the iPad and the Nexus 7? Microsoft has jumped on the bandwagon with its similar Windows Phone Marketplace and, most recently, the Windows Store.

But ‘app’ just means application doesn’t it? So here each operating system has its own app store which delivers applications designed to be run on that operating system including, and this is key, a User eXperience consistence with the design values pertinent to the target device. Thus developers/ organisations, as part of their business model, may choose to target an individual platform for their application. If they have the right app each of the major platforms offers a significant market and this approach can work. The problem then comes if they wish to extend their market to other platforms – currently for the very best user experience they will need to develop that application in a quite different set of technologies which means that porting apps from one platform to another is expensive (I note that there are cross platform tools out there but, as far as I am aware, they remain largely unproven – see below).

Now switch to an alternate scenario of an organisation which is not targeting a platform but targeting an existing customer base and hence will find themselves in the situation of prioritising development of their apps for differing platforms. Take the example of a bank who wishes to produce an app for customer to perform account management. Why? Well for competitive advantage of course – to keep existing customers with them and to encourage new customers to them. They will need to produce and maintain multiple versions of the application for the different platforms: 2,3,4? Logically they would then continue to prioritise platforms based on the breakdown of their current/ targeted user base.

So, firstly is this situation any different from that with more traditional devices – Apple or Microsoft OS based desktop or laptop devices. Yes because the mobile nature of devices opens up so many more useful app scenarios and the app store concept has taken off. No in that as we had, and have, OS specific traditional client computing ‘apps’ – the solution was moving the applications to the web and to related cross platform technologies.

So there are two, related solutions to this problem area which is only going to get worse as the market further fractures with device form factors and operating systems:

  1. rather than having client applications specifically developed for each mobile OS let’s write them in HTML5 and related technologies. There has already been a bug push in the last 3years+ to push more and more functionality down to the client as devices became more powerful and this path offered more scalability than each client devices using significant computing resources. A caveat here – mobile devices offer significantly less computing resources than your desktop client, though this is changing quickly. Technology has a habit of doing this …
  2. rather than having client applications specifically developed for each mobile OS let’s write them in a generic fashion and rely more on using tools and technology to ‘translate’ these apps to work in a variety of client devices.

Or, probably, a bit of both. The downside? Well, there is device specific knowledge and trickery to ensuring optimal user experiences (particularly) in apps. Will the user experience be good enough for end users via cross-platform development solutions? I hope so. The current situation can’t be sustainable, can it?

Chris Sully
Technical Director, Propona

[first published:]


About the author

I am Dr Christopher Sully (MCPD, MCSD) and I am a Cardiff, UK based IT Consultant/ Developer and have been involved in the industry since 1996 though I started programming considerably earlier than that. During the intervening period I've worked mainly on web application projects utilising Microsoft products and technologies: principally ASP.NET and SQL Server and working on all phases of the project lifecycle. If you might like to utilise some of the aforementioned experience I would strongly recommend that you contact me. I am also trying to improve my Welsh so am likely to blog about this as well as IT matters.

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