Skype news: an update, and a more prominent role for Tony Bates?

skype updateSkype is in the news today with the announcement of a new updated version of Skype for Windows 8, which brings Enhanced HD Video support to Skype for Windows 8 in “selected scenarios”, according to a post on Skype’s Garage and Updates blog:

We’ve added support for HD video in select scenarios. Depending on the sender’s camera, available network bandwidth and the receiver’s setup on x86 devices, callers may be able to send 720p video and receive 1080p video, thereby improving the overall quality and performance of the video call.

Video messaging has also been improved with better stability and improved notifications, making them easier to find.

Skype is in the news for a different reason today, too, as a post on the Wall Street Journal’s All Things D blog reports that a restructuring of the company to align it more closely with its “Devices and Services” strategy may be underway, led by Steve Ballmer and bringing bigger roles for a number of executives at the company.  From the blog post:

Sources noted that the changes — which center on solidifying Microsoft into the “devices and services company” that Ballmer wrote about in his annual shareholder letter last October — are still being worked out, and could still change substantively.

But, noted several people close to the situation, the new configuration could include larger roles for several execs, including Satya Nadella, president of its Servers and Tools division; Tony Bates, president of its Skype communications division; and Don Mattrick, president of its Interactive Entertainment division.

How their new and perhaps expanded roles and those of others in top management will shake out is unclear.

Bates was brought in to the company with the acquisition of Skype back in May of 2011 as President of a newly created Skype Division, and as such already reports directly to CEO Steve Ballmer, but a realignment as part of a bigger shift to devices and services may signal a bigger role for both Bates and Skype.

Last week ex- Windows President Steven Sinofsky made an appearance at the D Conference, and downplayed the notion that he was forced out, saying that it was just “time for a change”.  However Microsoft was quick to point out at the time that the departure was a “mutual” decision, and Sinofsky’s infamous inability to play well with others was widely regarding as a major reason for his leaving.  We’re already seeing somewhat of a thaw in how Microsoft portray’s itself, with Julie Larson-Green calling the company “principled, but not stubborn” when it comes to decisions like the re-appearance of a Start button in Windows 8.1, and the newly announced Bing integration into Windows 8.1 is another example of the kind of inter-divisional cooperation that was difficult to come by in the Sinofsky era.

Now, with Sinofsky out of the picture (regardless of who made that decision), and a new focus on devices and services, a more formal restructuring of the company makes sense.  It will be interesting to see how Bates, an outsider who is apparently rapidly rising in prominence within Microsoft, along with other rising stars like Julie Larson-Green, Satya Nadella, Scott Guthrie, Qi Lu, and Don Mattrick figure into what has all of a sudden become quite a different looking Microsoft.