First, kudos to Skype – for listening to customers, many of whom considered the first Skype 4.0 beta’s full-screen a deal-breaker. Yes, they listened and gave us a compact view, somewhat similar to good old 3.x, which is why I installed it in the first place, but after an hour or so I am ready to unistall.
But let’s be fair. The new Skype can be a great hit for many users. If you are looking for a video-phone, want to sit in a comfy chair and video-chat with Grandma, the kids while on a business trip, or even conduct business with one person at a time, this Skype is great for you.
If you are a web-worker, work with distributed teams (don’t we all?), and are the multi-tasker type (aren’t we all?), you’ll be disappointed. First of all, the default integrated window, resizable as it is, only allows communication with one person at a time.
Try chatting with someone else, the right pane changes – now how do I maintain a conversation with 4 people at a time?
This makes compact view (a’la 3.x) not an option but the only possibility. That way you can have several detached conversation windows.
But what happens when Skype is in the background (you actually work, when you’re not videoconferencing) and someone pings you? The discreet little icon in the systray tells you there’s an inbound IM – from .. whoever. Or you can get an alert at the status bar… but it does not tell you who just pinged you, all its says is Skype, and the number of calls. Thanks, Skype, that’s really helpful.(Update: the alerts are rather inconsistent, sometimes no alert at all – foolproof way to lose messages.)
Of course you can always click the notification to find out who it is… but wait, where’s the chat window? The click does not open it, rather it takes you to the main Skype window, where little icons indicate which of your contacts want to chat with you, then you can click again to finally get your chat window.
Now, again, reality check: my examples are all IM, and Skype has made abundantly clear they don’t really want to be in that business. Fair enough. We all have IM programs, more then we care for. I still have good old Trillian sitting on my computers, but I haven’t pulled it up – there was no need, the whole world migrated to Skype. Clearly phone and video calls are Skype’s original appeal (and revenue generator), but now that everyone is on Skype, we got used to using one single client for everything – and for simultaneous communication with 5-6 people nothing beats text.
We got hooked, and now Skype is taking our toy away. Time to dust off Trillian. But there is a little hope: they did listen once, perhaps they will listen again. Until then: good-bye Skype 4.0, hello 3.8, old friend.