Skype users on Windows, Android, iOS, and OS X will now be able to test out new features for the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service as part of a new Insider program, exclusively for Skype. Announced shortly after Microsoft’s debut of the new Xbox Insider Program, Skype joins much of Microsoft’s major software platforms, to enable more frequent updates with better-tested features.
The idea behind the Insider Program is a simple but effective one: have a section of the user base opt-in to be beta testers before a worldwide rollout of software updates. That takes some of the pressure off of Microsoft’s internal testing teams, letting more features roll out on a speedier basis, without risking more bugs and flaws in the software.
It’s a scheme that’s worked very well with Microsoft’s Windows 10 as well as its Office software suites, and now we can expect the same sort of benefits for Skype.
Skype users can now sign up to become part of the Insider program and will gain early access to features and performance improvements. While it’s likely they will have to contend with a few more bugs, reporting them early will help Microsoft iron those out before extending broader availability.
As The Verge points out, this scheme is already yielding early releases for Insiders. Users on OS X will find themselves able to use a new search tool for emoticons, to make sifting through them that bit easier. Call forwarding and voicemail options have also been expanded on the platform, while Android and iOS users should find a few early release bug fixes in their Insider releases.
Another takeaway from this news is that Microsoft is taking Skype seriously. At a time when it is refocusing and consolidating its efforts, clearly it’s doubling down on Skype as its communication tool of choice. Skype now joins the firm’s other mainstream products with its new Insider Program, and it will be interesting to see how the service evolves going forward.