Skype launches 4.0 Beta 3 ... still only on Windows... and still a fragmented product strategy..
December 11, 2008
- Main Skype blog post (with pretty screen shots)
- Skype Developer "Garage" blog post
- Windows Release Notes (Interesting to see what has been added/fixed and what still remains)
- Skype Download Site for 4.0 Beta 3
Parts of it look nice... but I won't experience it myself... I've been on a Mac for the last year (like a lot of the bloggers I know) and so we have Skype 2.7. At least I'm not a Linux user, though, as they are stuck much farther behind.
Every time we ask Skype personnel about why their product strategy is so incredibly fragmented across operating systems we get the same stock answers along the lines of "each product group decides what is best and most appropriate for their operating system... blah, blah, blah" along with the reminder to us whining Mac users that we sometimes get functionality that Windows users don't get. (And in full disclosure, I'm in Skype's beta program and I am aware of tentative plans for the next Mac version.)
But that's the point - why are Skype's versions so incredibly fragmented across operating systems?
Today in 2008, the operating system shouldn't matter. Our web browsers look the same (or very similar) across platforms. Our mail programs can look the same across platforms (like Thunderbird). We're pushing so much functionality out into the web-based cloud. We are using apps like Twhirl that run on whatever operating system.
Why should I have to care?
Now obviously Skype is very definitely not alone in this. And in terms of sheer numbers, the Windows market is definitely numerically bigger. I get it. As a former product manager, I understand. I also understand the difficulty in porting applications across operating systems. Yes, it's hard.
But other vendors can do it. Why can't Skype?
Very soon I'm probably going to be helping some relatives get up and running with Skype - but they are of course on Windows. How much fun will it be for me to try to support them remotely when their menus, options and application behavior will be very different from mine on my Mac? And what about Skype's desire to move into businesses? How many enterprise IT support teams will be excited about having very different user interfaces to worry about from operating system to operating system? (And yes, enterprises do have Macs in them these days.)
And here today, when Skype is releasing a version 4 Beta 3, wouldn't it be nice for Skype if all the various bloggers out there could be writing about it? Instead of just those who have Windows or who have Macs and care enough about it to fire up a virtual machine and load it? Instead they're losing the opportunity for word-of-mouth marketing... and then when the Mac version comes out, the Windows-based bloggers won't care... more lost opportunity....
I understand and appreciate that there are differences in user interface design and behavior between operating systems... but I'm quite frankly tired of hearing that used as an excuse by Skype for continuing their fragmented ways.
I'd like to hope that maybe the new management team will do something about this and unify the product offering across platforms. Maybe we could someday have a Skype 5 (or 6 or... ) that actually brought feature/function parity across the platforms and a similar user interface. Would that be too much to hope for?
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