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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announces Skype Lite just for India

The Indian Express logoThe Indian Express 22-02-2017

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella today announced a Skype Lite application designed for Indian mobile users at the Future Decoded event in Mumbai. Skype Lite, as the name suggests, is a lighter, more data friendly version of the video calling app, and will only be available in India.

“Skype helps people bring them closer together. Skype was first built on PC platform. But, today we live in a mobile-first environment and this is especially true in India,” said Eugene Ho, Director of Product management at Skype in an interaction with the Indian media.

The app was tested with consumers in India, and built by the Hyderabad development centre of Microsoft. Clearly aimed at the Indian market, where connectivity is still an issue, Skype Lite is just 13MB in size while still offering all the functions of the main app. Skype Lite is also fully localised and supports seven Indian languages — Gujarati, Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu.

“Connectivity is still an issue in India. But this is the opportunity that we have for Skype. Skype Lite works well on high speed and low band networks. It is powered by the new cloud services and made for consumers in India,” added Ho.

The features being offered by Skype Lite are a reduced size, instant messaging along with audio and video calling. Users can sign up via their mobile number or their regular Skype id.

According to the Skype team, picture sharing is pretty common on the app, and so this Lite version will compress photos before uploading them to ensure less data usage. The app interface also lets users see how much of their data has been used by Skype Lite, both on cellular and WiFi. There’s also a dark theme, in contrast to the regular white background.

Skype Lite goes a step further than just video and audio calling. It will also let users integrate their regular mobile calling and SMSes into the Skype Inbox. The Skype Lite inbox also removes promotional messages into a separate tab to keep the messages clutter-free. The team at Skype says this was one of the requests they got from the users in India, given the number of promotional messages that are received by most users.

Skype Lite also has a separate tab for bots in order to allow businesses to communicate with users. So far the list of bots include travel, informational, game bots, etc.

The app also comes with an integrated camera inside the messaging section, a user can just swipe up for the message to share photos within a group or with one person. According to Microsoft, Skype Lite is optimised for India and wants to put messaging, Skype video and audio calls in one place. The company says it has adjusted algorithms and bitrate to ensure call quality is maintained, but with less data usage.

In India, Skype faces significant challenges. WhatsApp, which is the most popular app in India, has over 160 million daily active users in India and now supports video calling in addition to audio calling. Then there are apps like Facebook Messenger, Hike, Viber, Snapchat, etc.

Skype was built as a video-calling app in the PC era, but in the mobile era it has lost out on some of its momentum. With the Indian market expected to see more and more mobile first users, it is not surprising to see Microsoft create a version of Skype geared solely for the audience in India.

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