Brian's Blog

…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World

Smart TVs and Skype Support

I learned today that Microsoft end their support for Skype on TV on June 30th of this year.

Clients of mine had just splashed out on a webcam for their Panasonic TV when the warning flashed up (too quick to write down the exact web address). After a quick search online I found Web forums ablaze with anger towards Microsoft. The general view was that Microsoft had “ruined” Skype after they took it over, and were ditching all the many users who use it around the world on their Smart TVs by ending their support for such platforms (causing TV manufactures to follow suit and remove the App).

I’m increasingly running into issues with people’s “out of date” smart TVs. It’s somewhat shocking that technology that seems to have been in people’s homes for all of 5 minutes (typically a few years) is falling prey to obselecence with features like this disappearing, such as following an update, and the answer being to “go out and buy a new one”… even though “it’s a ruddy great big television, and it’s not even broken!” Traditionally this problem would only happen with a computer and you could just reinstall something, but now that TVs have essentially become computers the goal posts have been moved. A similar issue is to be found with new cars; break your ipod dock (either physically or through some Firmware update), and what, you just replace the whole car?

Since on this occasionally we were also having a problem getting Skype to show video fullscreen we gave Panasonic a call and the quickly answering and helpful operative’s information was somewhat different to what I was reading on the forums of hate*, and also reassuring:

Yes Skype support ends – new TVs don’t include it – but the App will still be there on your TV, since it is already there, for as long as it doesn’t encounter a problem.

This is good news for us but it doesn’t say much for Microsoft’s general practice of ending support for stuff. When the NHS computer issue came about the other week blame was then aimed at Microsoft because they had ended support for Windows XP for which a large number of NHS systems are dependent upon.

In Microsoft’s defence, user’s have known about the end of life support for XP (and later Vista) for which the solution is to fork out for an upgrade. I also heard that the NHS had also paid Microsoft £1million+ for extending support for such systems, but on this occasion hadn’t installed certain updates provided. I’m thinking Microsoft are making a mint out of providing an update that is probably already in existence for their later operating systems and just needs a little bit of work to instruct it to work on an XP machine, but the service fee probably came in cheaper than the alternative of replacing OSs or equipment. Who are the smart people at the NHS to question this further; my impression is that the industry (and others) is rife with people grabbing what they can (take the pharmaceuticals putting the cost of pills up by 1000% as a clear example).

It’s a real shame when Microsoft and others end support for things that have an avid user following. As another Microsoft Windows XP example, I replaced a client’s old laptop recently for a new one and they gave me their old one for disposal. I was using it for watching a DVD on, for which I used Windows Media Player. Media Player became the norm, like Internet Explorer, because it was already there, but they lost their respect because they became less well supported; Media Player would often falter when it came to downloaded video. But as I was merrily watching away I minimised the thing for a moment and I found myself in a land of nostalgia:

Media Player disappeared down to the task bar and morphed itself there, keeping the DVD playing in a little box; I had forgotten about this wonderful feature, just like I now recall the various skin options that were available for the compact version of the player; I loved this one:

Perhaps these features look dated now, but compared to the dull, square, and poorly equipped “Groove Music” which takes up a huge chunk of my screen just to play a music track, or “Windows DVD Player” “apps” in Windows 10, I know which I prefer.

I have a similar view about Winamp which got bought out by AOL and then effectively ditched. I still use it as I have done for many years. Actually, how I have Winamp setup it does take up more room than Groove Music, but it has useful and attractive buttons, it’s not just empty space.

I’m currently reading a book by Richard Dawkins first published back in 1996 called Climbing Mount Improbable. It’s all about Darwin’s theory of evolution. In it, Dawkins repeatedly makes clear that evolution, that genetic climb up Mount Improbable, is always in one direction: “Darwinian theory does not allow for getting temporarily worse in quest of a long-term goal.” It makes me wonder why Microsoft would create and evolve a piece of software like Windows Media Player or Internet Explorer only to ditch it (make it extinct) and replace it with something as utterly dull as Groove Music/Windows DVD Player or Edge (not that IE was ever all that exciting), but why the sudden game change? They don’t feel like a forward step, not an evolution, just a simplification. Of course I know the answer: Money.

*there is way too much anger online, isn’t there?! But that’s a future topic, I’m sure.

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3 comments on “Smart TVs and Skype Support

  1. taskerdunham
    30 May, 2017

    If still using Internet Explorer, you might have noticed that after the Windows 10 Creator update (I won’t go on about that but could), then next to the Open New Tab feature at the top, there is an extra Tab – Open Microsoft Edge. Is that a clue about where IE is going?

    • Brian
      31 May, 2017

      I haven’t seen that yet; I’m perhaps an update behind, but I’ve certainly noticed Microsoft luring all over to Edge. I’ve had to tell some IE users to make the switch since it has become unstable/buggy on their Windows 10 machines, even when the operating system has been freshly installed along with all updates. IE will evolve no more. Personally I generally use Firefox, although this week there have been issues accessing Outlook with that.

      • taskerdunham
        31 May, 2017

        I use Firefox, Chrome, IE, Edge, Opera and Safari, all for different things, in the hope it stops facebook from seeing what I’ve been googling, and google from what I’ve been doing on MS, and so on. I have shortcuts renamed so I don’t forget what they’re for. It’s irritating when you look for something on one platform and start getting ads for it on another.

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