Viber now on desktop, Skype gets on the browser! Who made the wiser move?

viber-for-windows

I must say, i immensely like both products as they continue to be integrated in my daily work flow. Whether it’s a business call with an associate or simply calling family and friends, depending on the the device am using and the network, i find both Skype and Viber absolutely remarkable products. Viber which has been predominantly working on mobile (for all the right reasons) as decided to shift to the desktop (for all the wrong reasons) while Skype as rightfully shifted focus on the browser.

You would think, wait a minute, since Skype is on the desktop, shouldn’t Viber move into that domain too?

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To answer this question, you’ll need to have followed the evolution of such VoIP-based services over the years, why some have failed and others struggled(including Skype itself). Skype started out on the desktop with the premise of providing free PC-to-PC calls to all Skype users and cheap international calls as long both parties had the software installed on their desktops. The problem with telephony on the desktop is that the PC was NOT designed to be a phone! Unlike Smartphones, Most PCs do not come pre-installed with microphone and speakers that work, out-of-the-box with Skype. As such, you’ve to install buy and install them as peripheral components and then rightfully configure them to work with the software. Coupled with that, your PC must always have power and the other applications on your computer should not deprive Skype of the computing horse power it needs to make that call. All these constraints and others i won’t get into make calling with the PC (using Skype) not a very user friendly and intuitive choice which has left most people using the chat and file transfer service on Skype instead.

Skype for Android with Video. Image courtesy of Skype.com

Skype for Android with Video. Image courtesy of Skype.com

When smartphones with advanced mobile operating systems and high processors finally came of age, Skype immediately moved into mobile with its App that i find absolutely awesome. With the Smartphone as opposed to the desktop PC, you don’t need to look around for headsets, do the right configurations to actually make a Skype call. You just call and talk intuitively the way you do with conventionally GSM calls, except that this time, it’s your data that’s being billed, not your usual Air Time. Skype on the smartphone is feels like something that the company should have done right from the start — but the phones weren’t ready for prime time then.

Yet, Viber seems to have completely ignored this lesson and moved the opposed direction — from mobile to desktop!  I greeted the news of Viber on the desktop with skepticism and hasn’t since installed it on my PC.

Skype on Outlook.com

Skype on Outlook.com

But Skype having been on the desktop is making another evolutionary step — it’s now on your browser! Through a plug-in that works with the most recent versions of Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox, you can now make voice and video calls from within your webmail account on outlook.com. This is probably in response to WebRTC, a browser-to-browser communication technology spearheaded by Google and Mozilla that will enable web users make calls to each other through their browsers. This way, while you’ll still need those extra headsets for the calls, you won’t bother installing the Skype software on whichever PC you’ll be using.

While we still very much use PCs despite the so-called Post-PC era craze, we use them for tasks far from making callings and voice remains the undisputed killer-App on the  phone. While Skype’s move to the browser is only evolutionary due to its history, it’s earlier shift from desktop to mobile is far more prudent than Viber’s move from mobile to desktop.

 

  • tsahil

    Both will have to deal with the bigger implication of dealing with what WebRTC is going to bring.

    WebRTC just turned both these services into features instead – features that can be wrapped into larger solutions (think Facebook: http://bloggeek.me/skype-less-than-facebook/)

    • Tsahil,
      The idea of WebRTC is indeed brilliant in that it won’t require users to install software into their devices(here am talking mainly PCs or computers). The real challenge still is that as long as it’s on the PC (WebRTC or Native App), the non-intuitivity of Voice on these machines.

      Facebook on the other hand, hasn’t showed any serious intentions of evolving beyond just a text-driven communication platform despite the talks of a Facebook phone, the Skype-Facebook partnership and the latest Facebook home interface!

      • tsahil

        David,

        That is as far from the truth as can be. Facebook have actually come up with a mobile VoIP initiative of their own – unrelated to Skype. They have deployed voice calling into their Facebook app in the US and the UK. Assuming they see an uptake of this service, I am sure they will deploy it worldwide and add video calling as well.

        • Oh, how did i miss this! But what am wondering is why FB still has a partnership going with Skype when it just launched a competitive feature. What’s FB’s value proposition to Skype then or vice versa? Away from FB, Skype conundrum, Viber will still remain strong mainly because of how differently it works from the fold. It requires no username and password, sign-in, sign-out kind of thing and syncs with your address book and phone dialer(on Android) making absolutely cool. Think of it as the Whatsapp of Voice.

          Then again back to WebRTC which i also wrote about and its potential disruption to Skype(http://www.dignited.com/920/a-skype-killer-app-may-be-brewing-from-where-you-didnt-expect-the-browser/). It turns, Skype has responded so quickly by adding its integration with the browsers through outlook.com before Chrome or Firefox adds a killer call button!

          • tsahil

            It is only a matter of time until Facebook displaces Skype – or until Microsoft decides to pay enough/make threats to keep that relationship going. Facebook’s solution can be looked at as a beta solution. Once they make it solid enough and see an uptake of its use, they will ditch Skype.

            Skype might have responded first, but their current deployment model and limitations aren’t any fun (http://bloggeek.me/skype-plugin/) – they got it to the level of Google Talk capabilities of 5 years ago.

            As for Chrome and Firefox – they already have killer call buttons. They don’t come from Mozilla and Google – they come from a large (and growing) number of startup companies.

          • Tshahil,
            Thanks for your insights. We shall wait and see how these developments playout in the new future. I would like to hear your take on the new Google Hangouts too in comparison with the above mentioned products since it’s a video based products and works from the browser.

          • tsahil

            David,

            I’ll get something up on my blog about it in the next couple of weeks – need to think it through first.

  • David Mulder

    Old post, but stubled upon it whilst looking whether viber has a browser based solution for chromeOS. Either way, just wanted to point out that I (and many users with me) prefer the laptop for text chatting and calling. Why you ask? Faster text input, better loudspeakers, better microphone and no requirement to hold it in your hand all the time. Are you seriously joking saying viber’s move to the desktop was a wrong one? The entire reason I have been convincing people to switch from whatsapp to viber is due to their desktop client. Oh well, we shall see who of us will turn out to be right in the long term 😛