Two of the Release Note items for Skype 3.2 beta piqued my curiosity:
feature: Multi-Device presence
feature: Call Quality feedback in client
Yesterday I spoke with Mike Bartlett, Product Manager of Skype for Windows, to obtain more details behind these features..
The need for Multi-Device Presence has arisen with the arrival of PC Free phones such as the Skype WiFi phones and the “Embedded” Skype Cordless Dual Phones. In this case a user could be logged in on his/her desktop/laptop PC and then log in on the PC Free phone, creating potential for conflict of the user’s presence status as broadcast to his/her Contacts (and you never know from which device). This is complicated by the fact that Skype can “auto change” status to “Away” or “Not Available” if there is no keyboard activity on the desktop/laptop for a pre-configured time period (default 10 to 20 min.)
Also it means that chat messages sent to the user may end up on different but not all logged-in platforms. Or the message may not get there at all if an attempt is made to send it to a PC Free phone that does not support chat — recall those times you send a chat message and get the response that the recipient is “not on a device that supports chat”.
A team at Skype has been reviewing a variety of use cases related to this problem and developed an algorithm to have a truer reflection of a user’s Skype presence status. As a result Skype is launching “Multi-Device Presence” as a feature that ensures all “logged-in” instances of a user’s account (on up to five devices) are synchronized back to the most recently logged in device’s status. While introduced initially with the Skype 3.2 for Windows beta client, it is a feature that must also be migrated to the various hardware platforms’ firmware and to Skype for Mac to be fully effective. If you have a PC Free phone, keep checking (in the Settings menu) for firmware updates.
One more challenge as this process evolves: ensuring that “Multi-Device Presence” co-operates with Skype’s Partners’ software such as Pamela Personal Assistant for Skype that has the ability to automatically change your Skype status while on a call.
A logical extension of this activity would be to have Skype presence managed in context via iotum’s Relevance Engine to provide a more complete and thorough method for both presence and interruption management. Such a feature would assist both the Skype user and the called party, especially as users transition to using multiple Skype “end point” devices. More in a future post when I report on the Cordless PC Free phones currently being evaluated.
In previous versions of Skype, upon completion of a SkypeOut call, you may have noticed that, once every 10 or so SkypeOut calls, a browser window popped up asking about the quality of your calling experience. With “Call Quality feedback in client” this feature has been moved into the Skype client such that you may get a query once every seven calls. It will pop up as a blue tooltip in a Call window just above the line for entering phone numbers/Skype Names where you also find the ability to change Sound Device settings, warnings that your microphone has not detected any sound, etc. However, a major difference is that, being embedded in the client, your responses are also accompanied by technical information about your call to facilitate issue and problem tracking (such as the information you see if you have set the “Display technical call info during calls” feature in Tools | Options | Advanced).
One irritation about the previous feature was that it would usually only come up when I had good call experiences (which is my case over 95% of the time). Skype is looking for a way to allow the user to activate this feature whenever s/he wants to report a poor call experience.
Seemingly small features but atttention to this type of detail will lead to a smoother, more productive and effective Skype calling experience.
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