More than 18 months after its acquisition of Skype, Microsoft is continuing to integrate the online communication platform into its broader service strategy. The company announced Monday that it will add Skype calling and messaging to its Outlook.com webmail portal.
Outlook.com, introduced in 2012 as the successor to Hotmail, is Microsoft’s free online email, contact, and calendar service and has more than 420 million users worldwide. With Skype integration, these users will be able to initiate audio and video chats directly from their inboxes. Now that the Microsoft is moving Messenger users to Skype, the Skype instant messaging text service will also be available directly from within Outlook.com.
The Skype feature is rolling out now as a preview for Outlook.com users in the United Kingdom and will be available in the U.S. and Germany “in the coming weeks.” Following these initial test markets, Microsoft promises worldwide availability “in the coming months.”
To get started, users will be prompted to download a plugin for IE, Chrome, or Firefox. Once installed, users will be asked to merge their Skype account into their Outlook.com account. Contacts in Outlook.com that have standalone or joint Skype accounts will then have call and chat buttons next to their contact information. Simply click on these buttons to start a call or chat.
Microsoft has a short video demonstrating the Skype and Outlook.com experience:
More information on the new feature can be found on the Microsoft Office blog.
Skype was founded in 2003 and acquired by eBay in 2005 for $2.5 billion. Microsoft acquired the service in 2011 for $8.5 billion and began to transition its Messenger communications platform to Skype in April 2013.