May 28, 2016 • By Dennis Beaver
If you recently purchased or are close to buying a smart TV and a reason is the ability of Skyping with family and friends on a large screen, then have a bottle of aspirin and blood pressure meds, handy, because by the time you finish reading today’s story, you’ll need both.
“Why?” you’re thinking. The answer was contained in an email from readers who live in Kingsburg.
“Late last year we purchased a 65-inch Samsung Smart TV so we could Skype with family in Sweden and watch Swedish news online. This required the $150 Samsung camera that works only with their TV sets.
“Skyping with the ability of having all five of us together in the living room is really great. We also love the TV’s beautiful pictures, and as a smart TV — which is basically a computer inside of a television — we watch Netflix, Facebook, listen to music on Pandora, and on it goes.
“Or went, I should say, because a few days ago, a message was flashed on our screen stating that on June 2nd Samsung is discontinuing Skype! Now it’s impossible to watch our Swedish news programs because Samsung removed Adobe Flash from the TV! How can they do this? These were the main reasons we bought the TV! Can you please tell us what’s going on, and if we have rights?”
Beginning in 2010, in conjunction with smart TV manufacturers, Microsoft — which owns Skype — brought video calling into living rooms worldwide. Installed as an application, all you needed was either a built-in camera, or to purchase a proprietary camera only usable on that manufacturer’s television.
Skype for smart TV was a huge marketing success, both for personal and business us, enabling life-size video conferencing in multiple locations, completely free. We phoned Best Buy stores in the US and Canada, asking, “How important is Skype for smart TV sales? Paraphrasing, in every instance, we were told:
“It is a wonderful application, and especially for customers with large families and grandchildren far away, Skype was the main reason they purchased a smart TV.”
While admitting that “Skype has delivered a great calling experience in the living room, in partnership with several TV manufacturers,” a Skype spokesperson told us:
“Over the years, the way people use Skype has changed and the majority of people access Skype in their living room from mobile and tablet device. Starting from June 30th 2016, Skype for TV applications will no longer receive software updates.
“Skype is leaving it up to smart TV manufacturers whether or not they decide to remove the app or service from their devices or continue to offer an unsupported version.”
So, here is our translation of what Microsoft is telling the world about its Skype app in your Smart TV:
“It works great, people love it, you paid for it, you went out and bought an expensive camera, but because some people Skype with a tablet or cell phone in their living room, the rest of you are getting burned.”
While not required by Microsoft, Samsung has announced removing Skype from its smart TVs as of June 2nd, 2016. They are the only Smart TV manufacturer we have found that is taking this action.
Recently, Samsung made viewing content that requires Adobe Flash impossible as it was removed, and there are angry posts all over the internet from people who feel cheated.
We spoke with Samsung media relations asking why they are doing this. Will they offer refunds to customers for TV sets or cameras purchased just to use Skype? Why remove Adobe Flash? Are you replacing Skype or Flash with something?
While promised a thorough response to all of our questions, “a Samsung Spokesperson” emailed:
“Our smart TV platform has a variety of apps that allow users to watch and stream content, such as Netflix. We cannot comment on any third party content that users may view on the web browser of their smart TV.”
There’s nothing like a non-answer to warm the heart.
Professor Bryan Hull of Loyola Law School, provided this analysis:
“If Samsung markets these televisions as being compatible with Skype and then terminates the compatibility within an unreasonably short time after the purchase was made, it could be seen as a breach of contract and an unfair business practice. A possible remedy would be for Samsung to provide an alternative video calling app.”
Keep tuned to the Samsung/Skype Class Action Channel.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.