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Microsoft Businesses Communications Software IT Technology

Microsoft Turned Customers Against the Skype Brand (bloomberg.com) 135

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Since acquiring Skype from private equity investors, Microsoft has refocused the online calling service on the corporate market, a change that has made Skype less intuitive and harder to use, prompting many Skypers to defect to similar services operated by Apple, Google, Facebook and Snap. The company hasn't updated the number of Skype users since 2016, when it put the total at 300 million. Some analysts suspect the numbers are flat at best, and two former employees describe a general sense of panic that they're actually falling. The ex-Microsofters, who requested anonymity to discuss confidential statistics, say that as late as 2017 they never heard a figure higher than 300 million discussed internally.

Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella has repeatedly said he wants the company's products to be widely used and loved. By turning Skype into a key part of its lucrative Office suite for corporate customers, Microsoft is threatening what made it appealing to regular folks in the first place. [...] Focusing on corporations was a reasonable strategy and one shared by Skype's prior management. Originally [former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer] and company pledged to let Skype operate independently from Lync, Microsoft's nascent internet phone service for corporations. But two years later the company began merging the two into Skype for Business and folded that into Office. Today, Microsoft is using Skype for Business to help sell subscriptions to its cloud-based Office 365 and steal customers from Cisco. Microsoft has essentially turned Skype into a replacement for a corporate telephone system -- with a few modern features borrowed from instant messaging, artificial intelligence and social networking.
In closing, Bloomberg argues "the complexity of the corporate software (security, search, and the ability to host town halls) crowds out the simplicity consumers prefer (ease-of-use and decent call quality)."

Microsoft Turned Customers Against the Skype Brand

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  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @07:33PM (#56598808)

    Skype and Skype for Business are different products, not vaguely compatible with each other (which is part of the mess up that MS inflicted). Office Communicator was rebranded Lync (fine...) and then re-branded "Skype for Business" without changing the technology base (bad, terribly confusing).

    S4B is generally dreaded even by microsoft users (though when it works and everyone has the software working *and* their respective organizations can talk to each other *and* policies actually allow the meetings to work... it's not too terrible most of the time, apart from some general UI glitchiness...) When you have an attendee using OSX... it almost works sometimes. When you have a linux attendee, well you are out of luck for anything but text (officially), unofficially you can get a plugin for pidgin which can sort of participate in calls and screen sharing (the UI is a bit challenged for pidign-sipe, but is actually more powerful for the functions that work).

    For all the rhetoric about "oh Skype's ailing because of focus on business needs", S4B compares poorly with pretty much all of its business oriented competitors.

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      When you have an attendee using OSX... it almost works sometimes.

      The problem with S4B on OSX is that it doesn't reconnect when people log in, making the whole thing nearly useless. Whats the point of an IM system that is almost always logged out? (And we used Lync/S4B mostly for IM, conference calls were secondary).

      For all the rhetoric about "oh Skype's ailing because of focus on business needs", S4B compares poorly with pretty much all of its business oriented competitors.

      Oh, there are other products similarly poor, [amazon.com] though that at least has first class OSX support.

      • What's the point of an IM system that's so heavily bloated it takes multiple minutes to start at login on the platform they own? Coming from a primary linux background, having to wait obscene quantities of time for basic messaging (outlook, skype) to start is a huge time sink. Look at Mutt/Finch or Thunderbird/Pidgin. They're so much better at what they do and free.

        • by Junta ( 36770 )

          One thing I wish Pidgin would do is be better equipped to message with 'non-buddies' in an organization. Also,there are some people in my org I still can't figure out how I would find with the 'people search' dialog. Sign-out on screen lock would be nice in my situation, mainly because with the native S4B client they make a probably missed conversation into an email so I'll notice it more readily from wherever, which is nice enough, though I would prefer if it actually logged me out.. Additionally, some

          • ... but also the S4B client has this peculiar tendency to occasionally stop being able to open new conversation windows. I still get messages (they show up in the notification area), but they are in no window whatsoever. ...

            Yes, I notice this too, it is frustrating. I think there is some disconnect between a new IM session and the existing IM windows. Why the Skype authors decided to do something different to existing IM software and require some form of acknowledgement I have no idea. Why all IMs cannot be considered unacknowledged until you start typing? That would make more sense IMHO. Minimum viable product I guess.

            Sometimes the UI just stops painting. I don't know if they are writing custom UI functionality or what, but Pidgin's "boring" use of the stock GTK UI elements has been much more consistent and reliable.

            And yes. I completely agree, stock, working, tried and tested GTK UI is much more reliable, much more consist

            • by Junta ( 36770 )

              The fun bit is that Windows has had boring UI lbiraries that work, even before GTK was so solid, and they continue to exist. However at least for the Office products, they seem to do something.. different... nowadays, with various glitches. Skype seems the worst of the bunch, but I have seen other office apps experience weird drawing bugs from time to time.

    • It's remarkable how many most incompatible messaging/conferencing apps there are. It's as if the various email domains were unique and you couldn't email wasn't interoperative. Even on Windows, they generally don't play well and are hard to install/update.

      Depending on who we are trying to meet with, off the top of my head, there is Skype, S4B, WebEx, Zoom, AT&T Connect, GoTo meeting, Chime, Google Something, Adobe Connect, Sametime and probably lots more.

      It's a pain if you are the one who is stuck using

    • by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @09:54PM (#56599244) Homepage

      In my experience it's useless when logged in on multiple devices. Calls and messages show up in random locations and I don't get notifications. That's pretty broken for my needs. So my team has moved to slack but S4B for screen sharing demos and video calls only.

      • In my experience it's useless when logged in on multiple devices. Calls and messages show up in random locations and I don't get notifications. That's pretty broken for my needs.

        So it's not just me.

        I want to have it on my phone so I get IMs when I'm not at my desk, but when I am at my desk it's crazy that I don't see notifications on the desktop.

    • by sjhwilkes ( 202568 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @09:55PM (#56599246)

      Exactly - and this is during the time where Macs have become commonplace in the corporate world and Linux desktops, while still rare, are definitely a thing.
      It took ages for the Mac S4B client to support recording meetings, our IT answer to this was 'just have someone on Windows record the call'. No one in our group of 38 people runs Windows (36 Mac and 2 Linux)...
      We didn't finish moving off WebEx (kept it for meetings > 25) and are now moving to Zoom for conferencing. We're still S4B for phones (or more commonly using our cell phones) and using Slack for IM.
      In my case I have >100 Skype consumer contacts and used to use it a lot, business communications has become split amongst all the above while personal stuff has moved to WhatsApp. What to destroy the value in what you purchased MS.

    • by thsths ( 31372 )

      > then re-branded "Skype for Business"

      And unfortunately, Skype for Business calls itself just "Skype" for short. It is a mess.

      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        So many times we say "do you have skype for business" and they say "oh yes, I have skype", then we can't meet because they are trying to use skype to join the meeting not skype for business and can't figure out how...

    • I use Microsoft products. I have a Skype for Business included in another subscription, but after trying it for a month about a year ago I abandoned it completely for webex. Skype for business screen sharing is horrible! Time wasted on glitches and disconnects is just not worth it. Webex or TeamViewer on the very same machines works great. Even Windows to Windows sessions. If you're just trying to make a phone call, sure, it works, but the same as the free personal Skype. And yes, the UI got less intuitive

      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        On the UI, their quest for minimalism is a major culprit.

        For example, we spent a long time trying to explain where the 'share screen' button is, and the person unable to find it, because we forgot he was not a presenter and so the UI elements are missing, not disabled with a tooltip explaining why it wasn't usable. Wouldn't want to clutter the guest UI with controls they can't use anyway, right?

        In a large conference with a remote presenter, they spent a while searching for a button or menu to full-screen t

        • Good points!

          we spent a long time trying to explain where the 'share screen' button is, and the person unable to find it, because we forgot he was not a presenter and so the UI elements are missing, not disabled with a tooltip explaining why it wasn't usable. Wouldn't want to clutter the guest UI with controls they can't use anyway, right?

          I had an annoying surprise helping someone important but not very tech-savvy 3 days ago. A couple, actually, since I'm not normally helping remote users and knowledge of these gotchas is "tribal". After the call I confirmed the Mac version just does not allow a PC user to take control of the mouse and keyboard control. MS always silently ignores features in their ports to mac even when version numbers are the same --as true in the IE5 port of 20 years ago as in the latest Office 2016 port.
          I conn

    • S4B compares poorly with pretty much all of its business oriented competitors.

      Does it? Our business uses it (20k+ users) and I've never noticed a problem with it. I was even part of a review panel to look at alternatives, and while the Cisco products seemed technical superior, they were also a shitload more expensive. S4B is effectively free since we already have licensing for O365, so it's a no-brainer.

      FWIW, most techy people here use Slack instead, but S4B works for its intended purpose (communicating outside the ICT teams)

      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        If I accumulate more than 20 conversations, the UI isn't able to handle it (missing conversation windows, solid white chat screen sometimes requiring I restart the client).

        Screen sharing for some folks ends up just giving a black screen fairly often. This has not yet happened to me, I don't know if it's something about their system or somehow misusing the feature, but haven't had the issue otherwise.

        If I have to communicate with someone outside of my company, it's a crapshoot.

        For non-Windows clients, it is

        • Wish there were more push-back on the move from transnational to subscription services.

          Subscription is a response to what corporates want. If you buy something it's an asset (capex), if you subscribe it's opex. From an accounting POV opex is easier to deal with and looks better on the balance sheet, so MS have just responded to their market. Home users don't like the subscription model, but that is not MS's primary revenue stream.

          • by Junta ( 36770 )

            While I know that some corps love subscriptions, I think the narrative has been dominated by software vendor who stand to profit massively from moving the industry away from transaction to subscription services as their products mature and upgrade revenue becomes challenged and the support burden is complicated with transnational (MS couldn't cut XP off as readily as they wanted to, due to perception problems).

            One key facet, MS had subscription type licensing for a long time prior to O365. O365 is all abou

  • Two Takeaways (Score:4, Interesting)

    by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @07:33PM (#56598810)

    MS's handling of Skype is "good" example of how to run a product right into the ground:

    * Shitty redesigned UI remake that no one asked for, and
    * Forced updates that removes features

    Q. How could MS screw it up even more?
    A. Delete old threads

    * https://community.skype.com/t5... [skype.com]

    I'm surprised Microsoft hasn't deleted this thread yet:

    * https://answers.microsoft.com/... [microsoft.com]

    • MS's handling of Skype is "good" example of how to run a product right into the ground:

      You forgot a few earlier steps.

      1. Upgrade it so the audio quality becomes imcredibly shitty

      I used to use Skype for cheap calls to international landlines from my mobile. It used to be flawless over s 3G connection. This is not surprising, POTS is 64kbit/s uncompressed audio which is fine. 3G has vastly higher bandwidth.

      Then they shittified it so it could not manage a call without dropouts on anything less than 4G. What g

  • by Selur ( 2745445 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @07:34PM (#56598816)

    the new Skype on WIndows simply:
    a. doesn't look better than the old one (okay this might be a personal opinion)
    b. is way more uncomfortable to use (options hidden or not available,...)
    1st my family switched to WhatsApp, then the company I work for also dropped it for the same reasons.
    -> basically everything seems better then Skype now, seems like they want to get rid of it

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They may be hurting Skype with all that they are (or are not) doing.... but Skype For Business IS NOT SKYPE. It's just Lync renamed. There are still two very different pieces of software, and they are not remotely compatible. Hence why using Skype for Business (aka Lync) on Linux is not just as simple as using Skype For Linux... Clear as Mud, I know.

    Move on.

  • by BulletMagnet ( 600525 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @07:49PM (#56598858)

    Hey Beau,

    Might want to fix your link - You're linking

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news... [bloomberg.com]

    When you should be linking

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news... [bloomberg.com]

  • So MS should just fork it, and not destroy what used to have a reasonable interface for single users.

    . . . Oh. I just looked. They already did.

  • by TheFakeTimCook ( 4641057 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @07:55PM (#56598884)

    I don't know what their major malfunction is; but MS has a singular "talent" for taking wildly successful Products and turning them into useless piles of shit.

    I know, because they are currently doing that for the ERP product I Develop in for a living.

    • I don't know what their major malfunction is; but MS has a singular "talent" for taking wildly successful Products and turning them into useless piles of shit.

      I don't disagree, but they are still making tonnes of cash so they're doing something right

  • Here's my take on it (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lohkay ( 1658931 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @07:56PM (#56598892)

    I was a huge user of Skype for years and made sure it was implemented in my workplace. Today, it is the complete opposite, I hate it with a passion. Here are my reasons:

    - Incessant and unnecessary updates. As a work tool, I really don't need to update a collaboration software every week or even twice a week. Sure, if it's a privacy or security issue, warn me that an update is needed. If not, you can just let me know once every 6-12 months.
    - Everyone that I know that uses Skype uses it for text / video calls with history. That's it, nothing else. It was doing that fine in the original versions, stop trying to shove useless features that are not requested or needed.
    - For a "simple" text / video chat application, it shouldn't take gigs of ram and a decent amount of cpu at idle (I've seen 15% in the tray, minized). There is no way you can coat this. It should be ~100MBs tops (and I'm generous) and a flat 0% cpu, I'll even allow 2% usage while its open.
    - It should not for ANY reason use ports 80 or 443 by default (which it does)
    - The whole windows 10 apps debacle... We had Skype for desktop, then windows 10 came around and apps were all the craze, they created a Skype app, tried to move the whole user base to it, which I unfortunately did, losing all previous chat history. Then months later, they told us the app wasn't working out and said we should move back to Skype desktop? Yet again losing history.

    How does the saying goes? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I was out the door at that point.

  • by ScepticOne ( 576266 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @08:03PM (#56598916)
    I'm always surprised at work when people decide to use Skype for meetings. It's so much easier to use something like Zoom instead - it's a lot more straightforward to use, and there's a lot less hassle involved.
    • I'm always surprised at work when people decide to use Skype for meetings. It's so much easier to use something like Zoom instead - it's a lot more straightforward to use, and there's a lot less hassle involved.

      The easiest thing is what the other person also uses, and in the case of any business it'll be whatever the business decides is the standard.

    • I'm a big fan of Zoom. It is so easy and works every time. Seems like everything we used in the past had semi-regular issues like needing to install something (and being blocked due to policies) and then problems connecting etc.
    • Zoom is great. we use it for schedule meetings, but not ongoing collaborative conversations. However, many of us have built up professional Real Skype (as opposed to S4B). These get used for lots for one going, collaborative conversations over the day, sometimes switching from chat to video.

      It has been a great tool for cancer research.

      Now, with Skype 8 being "re-built from the ground up", it is crap.

      Now that they are trying to turn Real Skype from an excellent app needing some bug fixes into a failed snapch

  • by e**(i pi)-1 ( 462311 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @08:15PM (#56598960) Homepage Journal
    In general, I have always some issues with MS user interfaces. It is topped only by Oracle based stuff. In general, it is always a matter of priorities. One should not have to get lost in the menues like finding the keypad to dial a number. I had also less issues with Skype before it had been aquired. Zoom is an example of a communication software which has a pretty good UI.
    • Topped by Oracle?

      No, the absolute grand masters of taking a straightforward concept and mapping it into the most un-intuitive UI imaginable, is.....IBM.
  • My company uses Skype. We all have a Skype for Business account, but nobody uses it because it's inferior in every way to the regular Skype (which isn't that great itself these days). So we all have to have two accounts.

    Everything Microsoft touches turns to ash.

  • by hxnwix ( 652290 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @08:37PM (#56599040) Journal

    Delete all source code commits to the skype repository from the day Microsoft acquired it. Fix any outstanding security issues. Skype goes from being a piece of shit to a mature, reliable, multiplatform service that everybody loves. Just run qmake and nmake or make to build the skype client - from the same source tree - on Windows, OS X, and even Linux!! Can you imagine? It's like something from a distant utopian future that can never be!

  • They ran me off (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Arzaboa ( 2804779 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @08:53PM (#56599072)

    Long story short, my hotmail email was stolen under Microsoft's watch. Someone used it for spam. I can't use skype now a decade later. There is no recourse.

    It is the unintended consequences here. I can't use skype, therefore the people I do business with can't use Skype to talk to me, therefore requiring us to use something else. Once your clients have installed something else and figured out how to use it, its not that scary anymore.

    If Microsoft has another use case similar, forcing honest folks like myself to use other services, and their clients, it doesn't take long to see a ripple over time. People either don't need to sign up, or end up using other software at least half the time.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How is Microsoft able to identify you as the same person with the hotmail account?

  • by ma1wrbu5tr ( 1066262 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @09:06PM (#56599116) Journal
    I removed the package from my Mandrake Linux machine and zeroed out my premium balance the day after M$ acquired.
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @09:19PM (#56599150) Homepage

    I use Skype for Business at work, and it is almost as good as it was back when they called it Lync. (That's high praise for Microsoft, as usually products go downhill as the version number increases). But I had family who used Skype years ago, and they haven't used it since Microsoft bought it. They use Apple Facetime and gave up entirely on people who don't have Apple products.

    Side point: I know Android has a video chat feature, but I've never gotten it to work. My wife and I on the same plan, same exact phone, same Wifi, but still can't get it to work. It just gives ambiguous error messages. (Old-school geeks remember fondly when programs told you what went wrong so you could diagnose the problem.)

  • by YogicFlier ( 692495 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @09:35PM (#56599198)
    I have used Skype for a long time. It worked fine before the UI was updated, and I did not enjoy having to relearn where almost every single UI element was located. But I would not have had a reason to stop using it until the ability to store a telephone number for a Contact was removed. Literally half the point of Skype is that it bridges the online world and the telephone world. I used it in a foreign country to call an 800 number for my travel agent when I needed help. 800 numbers don't work in foreign countries - THAT WAS USEFUL and it saved my bacon. But now I can't add new phone numbers to contacts, and I am looking for a Skype replacement. You want to know why people are leaving? Well, I imagine I'm not alone. :-)
    • The latest beta release of Skype Android uses your contact directory and separates those who have Skype and those who don't. You can add phone numbers directly into this. I don't beta test the Windows release, but it does seem that the only way to do this is to import your entire contact directory somehow. I agree this is very clumsy and I hope they add back the ability to create a separate directory inside Skype. Otherwise, worst case, you can always just dial manually inside Skype, but that is also kind o
  • by PrimaryConsult ( 1546585 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @09:47PM (#56599222)

    Skype for Business fails at instant messaging. Any other messaging client (including business competitor Cisco Jabber) can properly handle people logged in from multiple places. Microsoft's offering? I can be mid conversation with someone, and suddenly their messages start going to another desktop 3 buildings away that's been locked for hours, or my phone, or who knows where. How hard is it to send the same messages to all clients logged in with the same user?? If anything it should be easier than whatever fail logic it's applying to try and figure out which one is the "active" session...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Admit it, nothing acquired by Microsoft has gotten better or desirable.

  • I use Skype at work (Score:4, Interesting)

    by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @10:24PM (#56599332)

    It's by far the most unreliable software I have to use.

  • by waspleg ( 316038 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @10:36PM (#56599366) Journal

    They're currently doing the same with Linkedin. I didn't have a special love for it before but holy fuck are they spammy and obnoxious now.

  • The company at which I'm currently working used to do internatinal virtual meetings with Skype, before Microsoft bought it and for a short time after. They now do the meetings with Zoom.

    I used to maintain a profile with LinkedIn. I haven't updated it since Microsoft bought the company.

    I smell a trend.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    MSFT kills anything good. Look at Nokia. Dead.
    Skype - dead.
    Desktop programming - dead (on Windows).
    Privacy pre-Win10 EULA. Dead.

    I haven't touched a server running Windows since 2008. Don't see the point.

    What I want from MSFT is Win7 to remain the same, patched for security and performance issues, but NOT sucking our privacy through that damn EULA and their crazy "suck all data" monitoring.

    I don't want Win8. I frackin' don't want Win10. I don't want AI, speech, or a touch interface. I want a stable pl

  • by kriston ( 7886 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @11:41PM (#56599502) Homepage Journal

    Skype for Business is also almost impossible to remove. Unlike regular Skype, it can't be "uninstalled" in the normal way and requires registry hacking plus changing security privileges on certain executables to render it inoperative.

    That executable, by the way, happens to be named "lync.exe" and many of the supporting files are similarly named. They look nothing like regular Skype.

    No matter, though, Microsoft Teams is replacing Skype for Business, which itself "replaced" Lync, which itself replaced Microsoft Communicator.

    • No matter, though, Microsoft Teams is replacing Skype for Business, which itself "replaced" Lync, which itself replaced Microsoft Communicator.

      S4B is just a rebranding of Lync (ie still the same product). Teams is just a wrapper of existing O365 products under one interface (ie the IM/conf part will still be Lync underneath)

  • I can't help but suspect that it was the Skype team. Given how horribly they integrated into Microsoft Accounts, it really smells like the Skype team was hoping that Microsoft would sell them off in a year or so. It really does seem like Skype is trying keep itself siloed from the rest of Microsoft's consumer products.
  • by peppepz ( 1311345 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @02:26AM (#56599772)
    Skype's new user interfaces are terrible (I use the plural number because since the MS acquisition the program has been changing its UI continuously). They are not intuitive, not self-describing, not discoverable, hide the most used features, and just drop features that wouldn't fit in the UI design of the moment. They are also slow and buggy. They make me feel like a old man because every time I have to use Skype, I find out that something has changed and now I don't know how to use it anymore. This usually happens in front of the people I am conferencing with, which makes it even more embarassing.
  • I had created numerous groups, its been an arduous task deleting each and every one of those fucking rooms because either they refuse to go or they keep coming back. Hate my buddies who use it and insist on it rather that SMS. Lync is another POS based on skype.
  • Major security flaws with skype. Big enough you could drive Trump's ego through. Running skype? Someone could take over your machine as admin and OWN you. It's been reported, they know about it, said - tough. No patch for it anytime soon, if ever.

  • How can they make their product worse and worse for each release? There used to be option for inverting/mirroring/flipping your image, but that is long gone. And the linux client implementation must be the worst thing I have seen in yonks - it is impossible to make it grok a camera that cheese is perfectly happy with.

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