Cloud

Skype adds real-time translation; Slack launches video calls

Microsoft recently updated its Skype Translator feature to work on mobile phones and landlines. In an effort to remain competitive with Skype, Slack has officially added video calls to its product.

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Image: Microsoft/Skype

The enterprise messaging wars are heating up. Microsoft recently expanded Skype Translator, which will now offer real-time translation for landline and mobile phone calls as well. Similarly, enterprise message giant Slack added a video calling option on Tuesday.

Skype has had translation features since 2014, but they were previously only available on Skype-to-Skype calls. Now, however, it will be available for calls that take place between a Skype user and a non-Skype user on a mobile or landline phone with the latest version Skype Preview.

According to the Microsoft blog post announcing the update, the new version of Skype Translator is currently only available to members of the Windows Insider Program who have Skype credit or take part in the subscription service.

SEE: Slack: The smart person's guide

Once a user open up the Skype app to make a call and dials the number, they will see an option to use Skype Translator next to the call button, the post said. Once the call recipient answers the call, they will be informed that the call is being recorded for translation. Currently, the feature supports English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese (Mandarin), Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Arabic, and Russian.

Skype Translator uses AI technology to perform the translations, so after additional use it is likely to perform better than it does currently. Additionally, Microsoft recommends that users wear a headset for call clarity.

Skype has long been the de facto messaging solution for Microsoft shops, but Slack has quickly grown to capture much of the enterprise market. And now, with added video calling, Slack is becoming even more competitive with Skype. However, Microsoft's recently launched Teams could give Slack a run for its money on the chat side of things.

In early 2016, Slack added voice calls to its text-based chat platform. On Tuesday, December 13, the company added the capability for one-to-one and group video calls as well, announced via a blog post. Users simply click the phone icon like they would for voice calls, and then click the camera icon to initiate a video call.

The key value here is that Slack users won't have to leave the app to make a video call. This is especially helpful for groups that use dedicated channels for impromptu meetings. According to the Slack post, "Anyone on your Slack team can call another person directly, and if you're on one of Slack's paid plans, your team can make group video calls with up to 15 people." Although, it will also work with Google Hangouts and Zoom as well.

Slack is also adding emoji responses to video calls. The video calls will be coming to Slack for Mac and Slack for Windows on desktop, as well as the Google Chrome browser. Mobile users can join video calls as well with limited capabilities.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Skype officially expanded its Skype Translator feature to work with Skype calls to mobile and landline phones.
  2. Slack has added video calls for up to 15 people, as well as emoji responses and limited mobile capabilities.
  3. Skype's expanded Translator could win it some favor with international businesses, but Slack is quickly catching up with Skype's feature set by adding video calls.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is News Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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