Microsoft to close its Skype office in London, Skype gets SMS relay feature again

Technology giant Microsoft is planning to close its London office of Skype and to lay-off 220 employed there, a media report says. Microsoft is continuing to follow through with the 2,850 additional job cuts company officials announced back in July that they’d be making during fiscal 2017. A Microsoft spokesperson with characterized the London cuts as a consolidation of some engineering positions that affected both Skype and Yammer.

“We are deeply committed to doing everything we can to help those impacted through the process,” Microsoft said. The online communications service, originally founded in London in 2003 and which was acquired by Microsoft in 2011 for $8.5bn, employs close to 400 people in the UK capital.

Microsoft cut about 300 additional people globally this past week, the company spokesperson confirmed, with the majority of those cuts affecting those working in the Puget Sound, Wash., area.

The founder of industry group Tech London Advocates, Russ Shaw says “This is disappointing. Skype is one of Europe’s iconic technology businesses and a genuine ‘unicorn’ with an amazing pedigree of innovation and talent,”  and previously vice-president of Skype Emea, who left when the company was sold to Microsoft.

“While London is working hard to build a strong base of world-class technology businesses, this decision is a step in the wrong direction.”

Skype will still maintain offices throughout the world, including in Redmond, Palo Alto, Vancouver, and several locations in Europe. But the layoffs indicate a shift in priorities, with anonymous former employees telling media that Microsoft has increasingly been taking control of Skype, replacing Skype’s employees with its own.

Skype was one of the first big voice chatting apps, but it’s increasingly come under threat from basically all sides. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, among others, offer the same features and have enormous user bases. Meanwhile, business tools like Slack are beginning to build in the features, like video chatting, that people have traditionally gone to Skype for. Microsoft is readying Skype as a Slack killer in response.

SMS Relay

The Skype Preview app in the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview build has a feature that was previously planned to ship in with Windows 10, “Messaging Everywhere” but apparently, it’s not called that anymore. The new name is SMS relay and while the new name doesn’t clearly speak for what the feature does, it does what the old name says.

Now planned for this summer’s big update, it would sync text messages across Windows Mobile and PC.

Microsoft says that this first peek at SMS relay will only work if you’re using build 14926 on both your PC (Windows 10) and your phone (Windows 10 Mobile). You should also have Skpe set as the default SMS app on your phone. So that really cuts down on the number of people who can test this functionality, at least for now.

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According to Microsoft, the following SMS relay features are available now (to Fast ring users):

  • Send and receive SMS and MMS messages directly from your Windows 10 PC. This includes texts, group messages, and shared photos. But it requires that Skype Preview on your Windows 10 Mobile handset is set as the default messaging app.
  • Hide conversations.
  • An Add contact button.
  • Support for Skype URIs, meaning you can start Skype calls and chats directly from web sites, and desktop and mobile apps.

In the near future, Microsoft will add the following:

  • Improved messaging. This includes message sent status, copy and paste quoted messages, read/unread line indicators, URL previews in chat, keyboard shortcuts, drag and drop of files and photos, drag and drop of URLs from web browsers, and video messaging.
  • Easier calling. You’ll be able to start a call or conversation from a contact’s profile page, group calls will continue even when the person who started the call leaves, audio/video device settings are coming, and Microsoft will make loudspeaker improvements.
  • Additional Windows 10 Mobile updates. Microsoft will add a transparent app tile, video calls will default to the loudspeaker, and back button navigation will be improved.

Fans seem to be really happy about the fact that Microsoft is getting really involved in improving the Skype experience and that the company does indeed care about the satisfaction its users enjoy with the app. And with such connected features across smartphones and desktops, Microsoft’s mobile plans might still have a potential.

What do you think of SMS relay and the new Skype app? Let us know in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “Microsoft to close its Skype office in London, Skype gets SMS relay feature again

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