Microsoft latest to mimic Snapchat with new Skype Qik ephemeral video messaging app

Microsoft has just joined the ranks of companies looking to capitalize on the success of ephemeral messaging apps like Snapchat. Through its Skype division, the company has launched a new cross-platform app for iOS, Android, and (of course) Windows Phone called Skype Qik. The premise of the application, as can be seen in the video above and screenshots below, is simple: you can record a quick video, and then share it to either one person in your address book or multiple groups of people.

Differentiating itself from some of the other players, the Skype-based solution is video-focused, and Skype is positioning it as a communication tool for in between full-scale Skype video chats. Notably, the whole service is connected to your phone number and existing contacts list, so it doesn’t require signing up with a standard Skype account. If you send a message via Qik to a user without the Qik app, the other person will be sent an SMS text message with instructions for downloading the Qik app to view the video message. This app is based on the technology from startup Qik, which Skype acquired a few years ago.

By default, videos will expire after two weeks, and you can also un-send messages at any time. A cool feature of Skype Qik is the ability to pre-record various 5 second GIFs that you can send as instant replies. So, if you don’t have the ability to send a live video reply, you can just choose one of your pre-record defaults. The app is free today on the aforementioned platforms, and Microsoft says that updates, such as one for blocking iPhone contacts (that feature is available today on Android and Windows Phone), will come often to enhance the feature-set.

You can view some screenshots of the iPhone app in action below:

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Designers mock up Apple Watch versions of popular iOS applications

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Facebook Messenger

Thinkapps’ Build Blog has published a few designer mockups showing what popular third-party applications might look like on Apple’s new smartwatch with some interesting results. The apps were created by several different designers, and you can see that each app maintains some of the branding and design you’d expect while conforming to the smaller wearable UI and its new input devices like the Digital Crown.

Above you’ll find the design for Facebook Messenger, which features a contact view made up of circular contact photos with online indicators that closely resembles the watch’s home screen. The message view sports a single reply button that presumably uses the device’s built-in dictation capability to compose a response.

Below you’ll find designs for apps like Beats Music, Skype, Uber, YouTube, and more. Keep in mind that these designs are hardly official, but represent the types of user interfaces you might see when the folks in Cupertino release the Apple Watch early next year.

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Skype launches redesigned Mac app ahead of OS X Yosemite

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Skype today has begun rolling out a redesigned version of its Mac client, bringing an enhanced look that better fits the upcoming design aesthetic of OS X Yosemite. The new design also brings the Mac app more in line with the recently redesigned iPhone and iPod touch version of Skype. The new look’s most significant new feature fixes a common #FirstWorldProblem: having to figure out how to send someone an instant message during a voice or video call. Now, the new Skype 7.0 update brings the split-screen view shown above. Improved multi-person video calls, easier sharing, and chat syncing across devices rounds out the update. Skype 7.0 for Mac is a free download from the Skype website. Some more screenshots are below:

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Skype app updated for iOS 8, includes interactive notifications for calls and messages

The Skype app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch has now been updated with support for iOS 8. Unfortunately, this does not include support for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus screen sizes, meaning Skype still renders at a scaled iPhone 5s resolution.

However, the update does add interactive notifications which helps streamline responding to content. Hence, new Skype notifications have buttons attached to the alert which can perform various actions. For voice calls, you can answer or decline. For video calls, you can choose between voice or video responses. For missed calls, you can respond with a message or call the person straight back.

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On OS X Leopard? Don’t worry, Skype says Mac version for legacy users returning soon

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Earlier this week, concerns emerged on Skype official message boards about the Skype Mac app no longer functioning on OS X 10.5.8 Leopard (an operating system that launched the same year as the original iPhone), and a Skype representative on the forums apparently confirmed that Skype will no longer be supported on Macs running operating systems below OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

While Skype has not been downloadable nor functional for Leopard users the past few days, a Skype spokesperson tells us this morning that this will soon change: “We have a Skype version for Mac OS X 10.5 users which will soon be available for download.” No additional timing details are available as of yet, but it’s good to know that Leopard users will soon be able to go back to making Skype calls and sending messages as normal.

We’re also told that this new download will be for Leopard users only, so anyone on OS X 10.4 Tiger or below will need to upgrade to Leopard or something newer (like Mavericks) in order to keep on using the Microsoft-owned communications tool.

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Skype says free group video calling coming in the future to more platforms

Earlier this month, Microsoft-owned Skype rolled out a group video calling feature to Windows tablets. The free video calling allows for calls with up to ten people, and integrates with Skype on the desktop, which has supported group video calling since April.

Today, Skype tells us that the group video calling feature will be coming to all of its mobile platforms in the future, which likely includes iOS and Android:

We’re excited about Skype group video calling and are working to bring it to more of our platforms. In the future, we’ll be enabling group video calling for all our users across more platforms – at no cost

Unfortunately, the company could not yet provide a more specific rollout timeframe. Skype has been rapidly releasing new products over the past several months, with a major redesign of the Skype iPhone app arriving a couple of months ago.

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Skype 5.2 for iPhone brings back missing voice message support

Skype rolled out a major redesign from the ground up to its iPhone app last month with feature improvements like in-app banner notifications and greatly improved message statuses across versions of the software, but regular Skype users were quick to note that the update initially lacked support for voice messages. Voice messages simply could not be accessed from the iPhone version. When Skype released version 5.1 quickly after the initial launch, users voiced more concerns that the feature was still absent with the only solution being to access voice messages on another platform using Skype.

Today in a blog post, Microsoft has announced that Skype 5.2 adds the useful feature back to the iPhone version of the app with voice messages showing up in line from other users. In addition to voice message support returning, the latest version also adds a new way to view contact information and add contacts into existing message threads. Read more

Why won’t Microsoft give iOS users access to their Skype voice messages? (Updated)

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Skype may have recently launched a major update to its Skype for iPhone app, but one rather basic feature went missing – the ability to listen to voice messages. A subsequent update to Skype for iPhone 5.1 still hasn’t fixed the problem.

In a support thread on the Skype site, community manager Claudius provided what must qualify as one of the most unhelpful response ever to complaints by users:

Voice message playback is not supported in Skype 5.0 for iPhone. Please use Skype on another platform to listen to your voice messages …

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Skype announces plan to discontinue support for older versions of Mac client

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Skype has announced that it will discontinue support for older versions of its desktop clients, including Skype for Mac.” An exact date for the change hasn’t been given, but the company says it will happen “over the next few months.” Mobile clients like Skype for iPhone won’t be affected by the change.

The specific versions being phased out are 6.14 and older (the current version is 6.18). The change is being made to ensure feature compatibility across the versions of the software in use and enable the developers to continue building on that foundation. The current version of Skype offers several features not provided in older versions, such as the option to send messages to offline users.

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Skype for iPhone gets ground-up redesign; top designer talks future iPad & iOS 8 updates

A few years ago, Skype was the rockstar of the messaging world, but now with smartphones and mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and iMessage, Skype’s iPhone feature-set and application have begun to stagnate. However, the Skype development team has not been standing still. The Microsoft-owned company is revealing today that it is nearing the launch of a completely revamped Skype application for the iPhone and iPod touch. I met with lead Skype designer Guilherme Schneider last week for an exclusive preview and an interview regarding the new software, and the application certainly seems impressive…

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VirtualBox updated with support for multi-touch platforms, in time for Windows 8.1 & Mavericks

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VirtualBox, a free software package that allows you to run a whole range of virtual machines on your Mac, has been updated to provide support for multi-touch platforms, support for the latest CPUs and other notable additions. The upgrade comes on the same day that Microsoft launched Windows 8.1, and ahead of the expected launch of Mavericks around the end of October …  Read more