Microsoft Skype goes lite for India

Built with India-centric features in mind, like low-bandwidth 2G/3G networks, Indian languages, and Aadhaar integration

Skype Lite, Aadhaar verification

At its Future Decoded event here in Mumbai on February 22, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, announced a new offering for mobile-first
and mobile-only markets – Skype Lite. Skype
Lite allows communication and collaboration over low-bandwidth networks and
will bring Aadhaar integration to the app by June 2017.

Skype Lite is
Microsoft’s fastest and smallest Skype app to date. It is built to help people
in India stay connected in challenging network conditions, as it is lightweight
and fast. Skype Lite contains features specifically designed for India,
including help to manage SMS by intelligently removing clutter, mobile data and
Wi-Fi usage monitoring, India-focused Skype Bots and power saving
functionality. The app will be available in
seven local languages:
Gujarati, Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and
Urdu.

Skype will also bring Aadhaar integration to
the app by June 2017. With this integration, Skype users will be able to
authenticate the identity of unknown callers in a variety of situations where
identification verification is required, including job interviews, goods and
property sale.

The new Skype lite is just 13 MB in size so it is suited to mid- and low-end  Android phones that have less memory. Its main feature is bandwidth and reduced device memory footprint. It works with both high-speed and low-speed networks, and can intelligently switch between networks and Wi-Fi to optimize performance and save data usage.

The inclusion of bots is another new feature. Microsoft is working with developers to create India specific bots that will be integrated into Skype lite. Presently, it comes with a few fun bots (like Your Face) and information bots.

According to Eugene Ho, Director of Products, Skype, Skype Lite was developed from the ground up for India. It was built and tested at Microsoft's development center in Hyderabad. He said Microsoft has yet to launch it in other markets.

"We tested it with Indian consumers and they told us what features they wanted in Skype Lite," said Eugene. "Smaller size, consuming less bandwidth, and picture sharing were some of the key requests."

When users share pictures, these are first compressed and then uploaded to the cloud. This saves bandwidth. Consumers can re-share pictures and other content without the need to download it first. This saves data usage.

There are other features too. For instance, users can see how much data is consumed on Wi-Fi and cellular networks. The interface also includes a dark theme (similar to Night Mode) -- so if you work late into the night, this theme will be easy on your eyes.

Skype Lite can also be set up to become your default SMS or phone application. It integrates the caller and SMS interfaces so you have everything in one place, within Skype Lite.

WhatsApp has a huge base in India and it remains to be seen if Skype Lite can match those numbers. However, its bandwidth saving features, multiple-language support, Aadhaar integration and India bots (whenever they are available) could give the Skype Lite application some leverage. Because of its integration with Microsoft Office, we anticipate more usage among professional users. 

Since Skype is a conversational platform, we would also like to see some integration with Microsoft Cortana for conversational bots.

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Additional input: Brian Pereira, Executive Editor, BW Businessworld.


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