Tomorrow Skype will stop working on large numbers of Smart TVs around the world. Samsung, Sony and other Smart TV manufacturers will be removing the app from those TVs over the next few days.
Don’t blame the TV manufacturers though, they are just doing what they have to do to maintain a secure environment for their customers. After all, your Smart TV has an audio and video feed from your home that you really don’t want compromised.
The fault lies with Microsoft, who made the decision to abandon Smart TVs and stop supporting the Skype app, creating the potential security risk that needed to be closed.
Why would Microsoft do such a thing? Skype is an extremely popular service, particularly with ex-pats who use it as a means of staying in touch with family back home. Skype on TV was a perfect tool for grandparents and other non-technical users to get a great Skype experience. Microsoft may believe that most users have switched to using Skype on their phones when they’re in the living room, but those users who use the TV for the service do so religiously and without recourse to a suitable alternative they’re going to struggle to maintain those communications.
Perhaps those users didn’t generate enough revenue for Skype – certainly its peer to peer video service won’t be a big money maker – however by burning those users Microsoft, and it will be Microsoft who gets the backlash for this, will have thrown yet more goodwill down the drain.
For a company whose biggest struggle by far is to match Apple for reputation and customer loyalty, this example of throwing customers under the bus is perhaps the biggest indicator that its corporate culture is poisoned and it will never succeed in the consumer environment.
In the meantime, customers burned by this decision are going to have a challenge on their hands. The only comparable way of getting Skype on the big screen is by using an Xbox One with Kinect. That is hardly a friction free or straightforward experience. I’d guess that users will be more likely to turn to an iPad and FaceTime, safe in the knowledge that Apple won’t leave them high and dry when the whim takes them.
And once people start abandoning a service like this the ripple effect can be massive. If Grandma can’t use Skype any more and switches to FaceTime chances are all the family will follow, first just for communicating with Grandma and then with everyone else.
This is the way that social services start to die, just ask Friends Reunited and MySpace.