In a recent wide-ranging interview, Skype's Director of Product Management, Mike Bartlett, outlined his vision for the future of the leading VoIP service.
Bartlett confirmed that making the Skype video calling experience richer, more ubiquitous, and more easily available was the key to the company's future success.
Proper friends on Skype
Discussing competitors such as MSN and the like, Bartlett told TechRadar: "Skype is providing a more intimate type of communication that would you would find on MSN Messenger [which] is a more IM-centric offering.
"With Skype, we have instant messaging obviously, but people are using us more for calling, more for video… In some ways you could say that we are competing with MSN, but we actually find that a lot of our users actually run Skype alongside MSN and other IM programmes, where they have their larger, less-intimate network.
"And they have the people that they really want to talk to and really want to share these intimate experiences on their Skype network."
Easier for novice users
Discussing the latest version of the desktop client, Skype 4.0, tailored to make the service much more user-friendly for novice computer users, Bartlett told TechRadar:
"We have gone for a larger UI and people are now becoming much more aware of stuff that's in there that they maybe didn't know about before."
He added: "there's a much bigger canvas for video and everything works together well now in one window (where before you had numerous windows open, which could prove confusing). You can have chat and video and file/photo sharing and so on, all in the same window side by side. You can then easily go back and find that photo that you just sent over to your mum, or whatever it is. So that's all in beta right now and it's coming along really nicely, we're getting some great feedback."
Skype learns from iTunes
Bartlett goes on to make an interesting analogy between the new Skype 4.0 and iTunes:
"It's a big change. Nobody else has attempted to do a communications client in a larger form factor than what we are used to today. I often talk about it internally in these terms – six or seven years ago, you would listen to music in WinAmp and now everybody uses something like iTunes, which has rich, open browsing and all of that. The difference being that WinAmp is an application you use to play music and iTunes is an application you use to experience music.
"Which is exactly what we are doing with desktop communications. It's not just an application any more, communication is an experience. It's something that we do every single day. It's core to human beings, wanting to communicate. So what we are doing is trying to make that a richer experience for people."
Finally, discussing the conflict between Skype and traditional telephone companies, Bartlett stresses the deal as a positive step forwards saying, "they see Skype as an application that can leverage an unlimited data plan, so they are not as threatened by us… They are getting a good subscription base value and number of new customers and retaining customers. And we are providing a good application for their customers."
Check out the full, unexpurgated Skype interview on TechRadar.