Microsoft Outlook.com users in the U.S., U.K. and other select regions can now initiate Skype video calls without leaving their inboxes.
Nearly four months after announcing plans to integrate Outlook.com and Skype video calling
, Microsoft finally flipped the switch, allowing users in select countries to initiate Webcam sessions straight from the Outlook.com interface.
Dawn Martynuik, group product manager for Outlook.com, revealed
in an Aug. 19 blog post that Skype for Outlook.com is now available in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Brazil, France and Canada. As for other regions, "We're still working hard to ensure this is available worldwide in the near future," she wrote.
Adding Skype video calling is a natural progression for a service that already links with other popular services, asserted Martynuik. Plus, it's a potential timesaver.
Outlook.com already supports Skype chat and voice calls, and connects with Facebook and Google contacts. While an "important and personal tool for most people," said Martynuik, email can sometimes fall short. She argued that "there are moments when you want to be able to speak live or chat face-to-face."
"In a recent Ipsos Public Affairs poll 76% of people say that their email conversations frequently or occasionally result in a follow up phone or video call, or other means of communication," informed Martynuik. Skype for Outlook.com speeds the process.
For users in supported areas, a "face-to-face connection right from your inbox is just a click away," she boasted.
In the wake of the Skype acquisition, a blockbuster deal valued at $8.5 billion, Microsoft has been incorporating Skype into its consumer and business product portfolios. Skype is set to be included in the upcoming Windows 8.1 update
, due on Oct. 17. Ryan Gavin, general manager of Microsoft Apps and Services, announced in an Aug. 15 blog post
that the built-in Skype app fits into his company's "one experience" vision, which includes more than "20 new and improved Microsoft apps and services that come as part of Windows 8.1."
Aga Guzik, head of Desktop Product Marketing at Skype, revealed in a separate Skype Big Blog
post that the updated Skype app is part of the start screen lineup for Windows 8.1. "Now you don't have to download your favorite app to stay in touch whenever you're apart. With Windows 8.1, simply tap the Skype Live Tile, log in, and you're ready to go," said Guzik.
On May 29, and slightly ahead of schedule, Microsoft finally opened up the lines of communications between Skype and Lync
—a move that extends the company's enterprise video conferencing and instant messaging platform to Skype's 300 million users.
During a Feb. 12 preview of the product integration, Giovanni Mezgec, general manager of Lync, told eWEEK
, "By bringing the assets that we have on the consumer front with Skype and on the enterprise front with Lync, we can have a unified platform that really brings communications from the living room to the boardroom in a way that makes sense and is rationalized and connected rather than having disconnected islands."