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Nixing of Skype Meetings App for Mac irks Microsoft customers

Microsoft is delaying plans to eliminate the Mac version of the Skype Meetings App after customers complained the move would make it harder for external guests to join meetings.

Microsoft customers are crying foul at the vendor's plans to eliminate the Skype Meetings App for Mac users, a move that would force businesses and their guests to use a desktop app that is harder to install and comes with fewer features.

The objections have compelled Microsoft to postpone plans to do away with the Mac version of the Skype Meetings App until sometime next year, after initially announcing the browser download would become unavailable as of this month.

Microsoft claims that the audio, video and screen-sharing features of the Skype for Business desktop app are more reliable than the Skype Meetings App. However, the Mac desktop app does not support in-meeting whiteboards, polls, Q&A's or file sharing.

The desktop app will also take longer to download, and users may be unable to install it without permission from their IT departments. That is bound to create hurdles for external guests invited to join meetings.

"It is kind of puzzling why they would push people into a product that has less functionality than what it is replacing," said Larry Goldfield, digital strategist at American Friends Service Committee, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit. "It's just headaches for us, and I know others are in the same boat."

Skype for Business is already notorious for how often users encounter difficulties when trying to join meetings, said Phillip Lyle, vice president of infrastructure at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. Many universities and businesses now prefer apps like Zoom that are simpler to use, he said.

The release of the Skype Meetings App a couple of years ago made it easier to join meetings and created a consistent experience for PC and Mac users. Its deletion could force external guests to spend up to 15 minutes downloading and installing the desktop app before joining a meeting, Lyle said.

"As an IT professional, we can no longer tell users that external guests will load a plugin," Lyle said. "Instead, we have to update our own documentation for a separate experience for the Mac platform."

To me, this looks like another aggressive move to push people into Teams, which is also not completely baked.
Larry Goldfielddigital strategist, American Friends Service Committee

The planned elimination of the Mac version of the app comes as Microsoft is pressuring customers to switch from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams, giving rise to suspicions that the company may be content to let Skype for Business be clunky.

"To me, this looks like another aggressive move to push people into Teams, which is also not completely baked," Goldfield said.

In a blog post, Microsoft said delaying the app's retirement until the first quarter of 2019 would give organizations time to update documentation and training materials to "make this a smoother transition."

Goldfield said his organization, which subscribes to Office 365, had no plans to drop Microsoft as its vendor of choice. However, he views the Skype Meetings App debacle as representative of Microsoft's attitude toward Mac users in general.

"They have in the past and continue to treat Mac users like second-class citizens. There is not feature parity; the performance isn't as good," Goldfield said. "We're a Microsoft shop. It would be unfortunate if we had to add something to the mix."

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