Yesterday I sat in such utter shock that I had to look out my window to see if, in fact, we were witnessing porcine aviation. My brain was having a hard time processing something I had just read online. I literally was speechless, which, if you know anything about me, is a very hard state for me to attain. :-)
What created this cognitive dissonance?
Skype just announced the simultaneous release of new versions of Skype for BOTH Windows and Mac OS X.
Even more, the two versions almost have feature parity.
Yes, indeed, you can now get the Skype 5.7 beta for Windows and the Skype 5.4 beta for Mac OS X, both of which introduce a "Facebook video calling" feature, and both of which bring the two releases closer to "feature parity".
Why is this a big deal?
If you have been reading this site for any length of time, you have probably seen some of these posts:
- December 2008 - Skype launches 4.0 Beta 3 ... still only on Windows... and still a fragmented product strategy..
- June 2009 - Skype launches version 4.1... (yawn)... still only Windows... still a fragmented product strategy
- May 2010 - Why I'm NOT excited about Skype 5.0 with group video calls
- October 2010 - Skype 5.0 brings Facebook integration, group video - but ONLY if you are on Windows
I - and others - have continually asked the question for years now of why Skype couldn't release its product simultaneously on at least Windows and Mac OS X. The answers always given were the lame corporate-speak about "delivering the best experience on each platform", blah, blah, blah...
But the truth is that the siloed development of each platform meant that Windows users would get some features, then Mac users would get some features, then Windows users some more, then Mac users some more... and the net result was that whenever a new feature was released, you couldn't try it with people who were on the other platform.
Meanwhile, many other products from web browsers even to softphones (from Counterpath) were all able to come out with a simultaneous product release across multiple operating systems.
I admit that I had come to expect that we'd probably see a full deployment of IPv6 on the public Internet before we'd see a simultaneous product release out of Skype...
(And with apologies to the users of Skype on Linux who pretty much have to accept at this point that their chance of getting feature parity with Windows and Mac OSX are right up there with the odds of the Pope converting to Judaism.)
The (Almost) Caveat
Of course, you'll notice that I keep using "almost" here... the fact is that this is NOT the same product brought out on two different operating systems, but rather the coordination of the release of two different products.
As Jim Courtney notes in his own post on these new releases the user interfaces are still different in ways that make it challenging to explain to someone on the other platform how to do something in Skype. There are still terminology differences ('categories' versus 'tags'). On the Mac version I still can't pop a chat out into a separate window as I'm told you can do in the Windows version (and we used to be able to do with Skype 2.8 for the Mac). Even in these announcements, the 5.7 beta for Windows mentions a "Push to Talk" feature which I don't see in the 5.4 beta for Mac. (Indeed I can't find any way to set "hot keys" on my Mac, which actually could be useful.)
Not that I personally really want the "Push to Talk" feature... but it's an example of the continued fragmentation of the two products.
So I celebrate the fact that Skype finally delivered a new feature simultaneously across both platforms - great work to all involved!
And yes, now I naturally want the rest of the parity between platforms... ;-)
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