Ranting about Skype is a bit like shooting fish in a bucket, but after an hour of failing to get the app to do what I want it to do, I just needed to ventilate.
The root of the problem was that I was trying to replicate a cool feature found on another platform, which would in theory work using the built-in settings on Windows 10 and Skype.
Having family overseas, and elderly family who was making expensive phone calls to stay in contact, I wanted to replicate Amazon’s cool Echo Show drop-in feature, which let the user easily make phone calls to others without any complicated user interface.
In theory, this could be done using Cortana to initiate a phone call e.g. Call <contact> on Skype. This would initiate a voice call to a contact without needing to press any more buttons.
The second half of the solution would be to use the Answer incoming calls automatically feature in Skype, which would allow one to automatically accept an incoming call, again without pressing any buttons or having any concern about the complications of a user interface.
Both of these are supported features which should not, in theory, require any hacks, but I was let down on both sides.
Firstly the basic ability to start a Skype call using Cortana on your PC does not work, producing the error above. This issue appears to be very prevalent, without any real solution.
Secondly, auto-answer phone calls are only available in the old version of Skype, and also in my testing does not work at all. If it did work (which it does not) it would still lack any sophistication, such as a simple whitelist of allowed contacts that can drop in.
It also sounds like the feature will never be coming to the Modern app, with a Skype developer saying this was due to Store restrictions, writing:
I’m Jesper, one of the developers on Skype for Windows 10.
I mostly work on messaging and don’t know so much about calling, but here’s my understanding. Skype for Windows 10 is a Windows Store app, and the store app model places pretty tough restrictions on what apps are allowed to do. One thing we can’t do is answer incoming calls without user interaction. Presumably to reduce the risk of apps spying on users.
Might could be that we can work with the Windows developers at Microsoft to lift the restriction so that we can bring auto-answer to Skype again. It’d be very helpful for us if you’d submit feedback on this through the app. Press Ctrl+O to open the Feedback Hub and ask us to add the feature. Your feedback becomes a work item that is routed to the right people.
The reason this helps is that both us at Skype and our friends at Windows a lot of work items to pick from, and we try to focus on what is most helpful. So when you submit feedback, that helps us gauge how important and valuable this feature is.
The whole saga leaves me wondering if Microsoft spends any time at all looking at the feature their competitors offer and attempt to match them, or at the very least check if their competitive solution works.
The short of it is that if wanted this convenient feature I would first have to wait for Amazon to roll it out worldwide, and then purchase an Echo Show, leaving another Microsoft product behind. Sometimes it feels like this is exactly what Microsoft wants…