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October 14, 2013

Skype for Windows 8.1, engineered since the acquisition

This blog post is part of a series of guest posts we’re publishing this week from different people in groups across Microsoft who helped us build Windows 8.1. – Brandon

For an engineer, nothing is as rewarding as seeing the product you’ve been working hard on used by the people it was created for. I work with a team of talented engineers and we are responsible for delivering the best Skype and Lync experiences. We pull together all of the underlying technology (the video and calling stacks, signaling protocols, runtimes, etc.) and match them with the scenarios, user experiences and UI that (hopefully) make communications a great experience for you. We develop the client applications for multiple platforms including Windows, Mac, web, and Xbox – and we’re very proud of the work we’ve done with Windows to bring the Skype built-in experience to consumers!


Yesterday marked the two year acquisition anniversary of Skype by Microsoft. And our work integrating Skype with Windows began then. The journey of Skype for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 has been about addressing user needs through innovation in design, features and infrastructure. We’ve been releasing updates to Skype for Windows 8 pretty regularly over the past year and consider it a point of pride that we’re not doing “big bang” releases. We were able to scale Skype’s brand and technology innovation while enhancing Microsoft’s portfolio of real-time communications products. Most importantly, we were thrilled by the opportunities to extend the value of Skype to other Microsoft products and services – Windows 8.1 is a direct result of these efforts.


When Skype for Windows 8 launched, we took a fresh approach to our UI and debuted the new Modern look of Skype. Working closely with the Windows team, our focus was to collectively design a great experience for the new, reimagined platform. Now, with Windows 8.1, we’re continuing to invest in optimizing and simplifying the experience so you can do more at once, which has always been a cornerstone of Windows. For example, new to Windows 8.1, users can answer an incoming Skype call from their lock screen, launch apps side-by-side with Skype and scale to the size of your device. We worked closely with Windows engineering to make sure Skype was seamlessly integrated with Windows 8.1 – so it’s not just the communications app that comes with your operating system, but a useful tool to stay in touch with your friends, family and colleagues.


Being part of Microsoft has opened up doors and increased collaboration and innovation across products. With Windows, we had a unique seat at the table to help inform the product from the ground up. One such example is the ability for users to answer Skype calls from their lock screen. This was a shift from Windows 8, where applications couldn’t really do anything when the device was locked. However, the Windows team introduced a new toast model for VoIP applications that allows users to answer the call using video, answer with voice only or ignore the call completely. We worked to make sure the transition from locked call to unlocked device was smooth and secure. We made sure that when users input their password while inside a Skype call, they’d move from this state of running over a locked screen to the complete operating environment. I think you’ll be pleased with how intuitive the experience feels and it will be fun to watch other apps take advantage of this functionality.

side by side view

The lock screen and other great features on Windows 8.1 like app-to-app launching and new screen size support steamed from our teams coming together to address user needs. With app-to-app launching, we made multitasking even easier. Now Skype users can not only share the screen with other apps but open another app (the browser, a picture, an Office document, etc.) and have it snap to the side of Skype. As Windows 8.1 reaches more and more products we realized the Skype client needed to automatically adjust the size and layout of the device. With the help of the Windows team we created an application that intuitively changes based on the aspect ratio and orientation of the devices’ screen.

We’ve been working hard on Skype for Windows 8.1. I am proud of what we produced so far and excited about the future development possibilities. It’s a pretty cool app, and I think I speak for the entire engineering team when I say, we can’t wait for you to get your hands on it.

Noah Edelstein
Director of Program Management