Cortana, Microsoft's voice-enabled digital assistant for Windows Phone 8.1, is now compatible with Skype.
The updated Skype app for Windows Phone 8.1, now version 2.19, includes Cortana integration, announced Lara Kingwell, a Skype product marketing manager. She described Cortana as "the new personal assistant on Windows Phone 8.1 who keeps you closer to the people and things who matter most."
Cortana was officially unveiled at Microsoft's Build developer conference in San Francisco on April 2. Similar to other mobile digital assistants like Apple's Siri and Google Now, the technology enables Windows Phone users to search the Web, create calendar appointments, seek directions and complete several other tasks by issuing voice commands. Incidentally, Cortana draws her name from an AI character in Microsoft's popular video game series "Halo."
The Skype update helps Cortana take a big step in becoming a full-featured virtual helper.
"Now you can start Skype video and audio calls by simply asking Cortana something like 'Skype get Lara Kingwell on the screen,'" wrote Kingwell in a company blog post. "Cortana is currently available in the US on Windows Phone 8.1," she added.
In addition, Skype 2.19 for Windows Phone introduces a few new features aimed at making the voice over IP (VOIP), chat and video communications mobile app easier to use.
Skype notifications now show up in the Action Center, an alerts panel similar to the ones found in Android and iOS. "Swipe down in Windows Phone 8.1 to see your email, text, social media and now Skype updates in the Action Center," stated Kingwell.
The Video Upgrade feature has been improved, according to the company. The option allows users to seamlessly switch from a regular cellular voice call to a Skype video session. Users can also now recover better from chat blunders, she added. "In response to user feedback, we've included the ability to edit your last sent message."
The newest version of the app should also appeal to more users across multiple regions. Microsoft "increased the language support from 19 to 51 languages, meaning that even more people can connect on Skype for Windows Phone than ever before," said Kingwell.
App switching is a more responsive experience, noted Skype Community Manager Claudius Henrichs. "Returning to Skype from various entry points like toast notifications, notification center on Windows Phone 8.1 or the task switcher is quicker now," he stated in a forum post.
The refreshed app arrives on the heels of a "remastered" version of the software for Apple iOS 7. Not only does Skype 5.0 for iPhone look and feel more like a native iPhone app, it is "over 5 times faster than the old version," boasted Skype product marketing manager Eric Lin in a statement.
Skype 2.19 for Windows Phone is available now at the Windows Store.