Microsoft updates Skype with HD for iPhone and iPad, adds mobile BI app

Microsoft upgrades its Skype app to add HD video

Microsoft has updated a pair of its apps, adding important capabilities to two different platforms.

If you find yourself preferring Skype over Apple's own FaceTime on the iPhone 5 and fourth-generation iPad, good news: With Skype 4.1, Microsoft's Voice over IP app for mobile now supports HD video calls. Separately, Microsoft also added a "PowerBI for Office 365" app for both Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets, indicating that the launch of its "live data" service is imminent.

Neither app directly influences the other, but both offer something important. Skype added video calls for the iOS version when version 3.0 of its mobile app arrived in 2010, periodically updating the app with support for Apple's latest phones and mobile devices. This is the first time that Skype has added HD video support for the fourth-generation iPad and the iPhone 5, though. In this case, "HD" equals 720p resolution.

Although you'll need iOS 5 to run the update, the latest version also adds general stability for those who have leapt to the most recent iOS 7 beta. "We realize that some of you are using iOS 7 beta and have been experiencing some instability with Skype--this release fixes some of the major issues you were facing," Skype said in a blog post. "We hope you find this update a significant improvement, and we will offer full iOS 7 support when it's officially released."

Skype for iOS 4.1 allows 720p HD video calling.
Skype for iOS 4.1 allows 720p HD video calling.

Live data comes to Windows 8, RT

Microsoft also launched the PowerBI for Windows app on both the Windows RT and Windows 8 platforms, designed to give users more context and insight when preparing reports. In June at its Build conference, Microsoft began promoting the use of Bing in conjunction with its other Office products, to provide live definitions and information as users moved through an Office document. At its Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft talked up its PowerBI tools--all part of a strategy for enabling "live documents" that can tap into public sources of data to provide current GDP data, say, for a report that was written several months in advance.

A public preview of the PowerBI functionality will be available later this month, Michael Tejedor, senior product marketing manager for Microsoft, said recently; when it arrives, users can sign up at PowerBI.com for the required a Microsoft Power BI for Office 365 account. However, the app was released in advance of that.

Users can interact with “live” charts and graphs using the new BI app from Microsoft.
Users can interact with “live” charts and graphs using the new BI app from Microsoft.

Users will be able to tag reports on the PowerBI site within Office 365 and share them out to colleagues and mobile users as a trusted service. The PowerBI for Windows app allow users to view and share the reports, but not edit them, according to the app's description. However, users will be able to interact with the reports, altering which data they pull in, for example.

Two of the capabilities that PowerBI will enable--Power Query, which pulls in data from public sources; and Power Map, which allows data to be graphed against a Bing Map--can be previewed in Excel 2013. Running natural language queries against the data, a feature known as "Q&A," will be enabled in September, Tejedor said.

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Mark Hachman

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