Whatchu got for us this week, Microsoft? Skype, Powerpoint tweaks and – oh – another foldable

Gaps continue to close in MS's messaging platform as fanbois dream of new devices

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Roundup In a week that saw developer goodness aplenty in Connect(); and Microsoft face a Chromium future, there were some other adventures in Redmond you may have missed.

Skype goes Away and makes its home in the System Tray

Microsoft continued to make good on its promise to keep closing the gaps between the much-beloved (at least, beloved once people realised it was going away) Skype Classic client and the more modern beast.

The latest significant events (for Skype Insiders at least) were the return of the Away state and the ability to minimise the thing to the Windows 10 System Tray.

The Away state, which can be set manually by the user, will bring a smile to the faces of at least some of the faithful. A new state, Recently Active, will be set automatically if the user has wandered off after having been active less than an hour ago.

Microsoft has stated that users will also be able to set the time period before the Recently Active flag goes up.

The Skype team has shown Windows 10 Skype Insiders some love in the form of a System Tray icon for Skype, with a notification badge for unread messages (although just as an icon at present rather than a guilt-inducing count).

Both updates are currently very much Insider-only but, judging how rapidly recent Insider tweaks have made it to the big time, should be in the hands of the majority of customers before long.

Super Skype (and PowerPoint) Subtitles

Anyone who has endured a Microsoft keynote of late will know the company is all about accessibility these days, be it Xbox inclusivity or adapting its core OS.

Last week, the caring, sharing Windows giant used the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities to launch call-captioning with live captions and subtitles in Skype.

The functionality has gone live over pretty much all platforms that version 8 runs on, from Android to Windows. The unloved Skype for Windows 10 (which stands at version 14) has also been given the gift of captions.

Turning the thing on is ridiculously simple. To quote a popular BBC film review show: "How do you turn subtitles on? You just turn subtitles on."

The subtitles and captioning appear as participants speak during an audio call, although accuracy varies wildly with accent (at least in our experience). Annoyingly, the captions also auto-scroll, but Microsoft has said that it will soon allow them to be viewed in their own side window, allowing for scrolling back.

Our accent whinge should also be addressed in the coming weeks with the impending release of support for over 20 languages and dialects, meaning that real-time translated subtitles will finally be a thing after much trailing over the years.

Similarly, PowerPoint is also getting a thumping with the AI language bat, although not until January 2019.

Being hearing impaired or not speaking the same language as the presenter will no longer be an excuse to avoid having one's socks bored off by a slideshow of tedium. PowerPoint will support 12 spoken languages for live captions and subtitles, as a speaker presents, and translate to over 60 languages.

We can but hope that the next step will be an AI powered cattle-prod or similar when PowerPoint detects the speaker is doing no more than reading out the slide.

Volare, oh oh, Centaurus, oh oh oh

While Edge's impending heart transplant snatched most of the attention last week, rumours also swirled around yet another device destined to sate the Microsoft fanboy desire for something to fill that Windows Phone hole in their lives.

The reports pointed to yet another foldable device, with two screens on which users can ink to their heart's content. Intel showed off just such a device back in June at Computex in the form of its Tiger Rapids concept. That take on the idea had one conventional LCD screen paired with an e-Paper display, with the panels sized at 7.9 inches.

A partnership with Intel would make the running of x86 apps easier, without the emulation headaches of Arm, but also without the lengthened battery-life.

As for what would power the mythical beast? Windows Core OS, or course. Or maybe Windows Lite. Or whatever SKU Microsoft decides to troll the faithful with in the last Windows Insider SDK.

While the device would undoubtedly be a fun thing, finding a purpose for it that would stop it being consigned to the gadget drawer after a few hours of playtime will be a challenge unless priced so keenly that sticking it in classes rather than the ubiquitous Chromebooks becomes a no-brainer.

Assuming Microsoft actually makes the thing. ®




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