News: Will the enterprise opt for mobile video collaboration?
10 years on from the launch of Skype video, the streaming chat service has unveiled the "next evolution" of its service: a group video calling service for mobile devices.
The new feature, which will be rolled out to all Skype’s users in coming weeks, will be available on Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows 10 Mobile. People can now pre-register to on a dedicated website to access the service ahead of the wider release.
Group video calling has been available through Skype for six years. The user can select a series of people to place in a group before initiating the chat. Rather than having simply one person on screen, the screen is divided so that each person appears in their own box.
Porting the experience to a mobile device will of course create challenges due to the smaller screen.
Group video chat on mobile is not unprecedented. For example, Google offers it through the Google Hangouts app, in which people can simply type in the name of somebody they want to add to a conversation during a video chat.
The third-party app ooVoo also offers group video chats on mobile.
Whether the feature will immediately be rolled out to Skype for Business customers is unclear. However, as Nick McQuire, Vice President of Enterprise at CCS Insight, explains, this could be a tough market to break into.
"Obviously Microsoft is pushing quite hard into the mobile productivity and collaboration environment. Skype for Business is moving pretty quickly; they are at the top of the tree in terms of driving new experiences on computing devices.
"It is a big part of how the bits within Microsoft fit together in how they think of workplace digitisation.
"Part of that is having the same experience on mobile as on desktop. Companies today are much more mobile and collaborative by nature and having the same experience in mobile is a big part of Microsoft’s vision."
The question of the size of the screen will be important, said McQuire:
"The question is whether it will be a good experience; the mobile screen is not the right form factor for group video. The jury is out on that.
"On the one hand people will say that the experience will be too clunky. On the other this will be the preferred medium because businesses in some sectors and demographics are done entirely on mobile devices."
McQuire added that the adoption of the technology would not necessarily be instinctive.
"My guess is that in the short-term, people will have to learn that mode of communication. Oftentimes, common behaviour will trump new behaviour. They are trying to adapt and remain consistent. Group video calling on mobile is an entirely new behaviour that teams will adapt to. On phones people will probably default to audio calling."
In the announcement, Skype also revealed that users had generated nearly 2 trillion minutes of video since its launch in 2006.