Although its inclusion is not a surprise, Microsoft announced Monday that a version of Skype will be released on Oct. 26 for Windows 8. Not coincidentally, Oct. 26 is also the date of the launch of the new Windows.
On the Skype for Windows 8 blog, Mark Gillett, corporate vice president for Skype, wrote this weekend that Microsoft's Skype team "focused on how people are using Skype today, and re-imagined Skype for everyday communications across our global community." The new Skype, which the company said has been rebuilt from the ground up, will be available on new Windows 8 devices, or can be downloaded from the Windows Store.
Windows Messenger Infrastructure
The new Skype, as has been predicted by some observers, is now using the Windows Messenger infrastructure for storing pictures, video and other content on Windows Azure. A video messaging capability, allowing short video calls to be left for others, is expected later this fall.
In a video demonstration on the blog, Microsoft pointed out that the new Skype is always on, and that the user interface utilizes the tile-based style of the new Windows, a style formerly known as Metro. The company said in its announcement that this "truly modern Skype" was designed to be comfortably used with touch interaction or with a keyboard and mouse.
The live Skype tile, as with other apps in the new Windows, provides a kind of window into the app, showing if a call has been missed or a new message is waiting. By snapping the new Skype side-by-side with other Windows 8 apps, users can perform other activities while Skyping, such as surfing the Web or using a map.
Recent chat messages and calls, and the people contacted most often, are shown when the app opens, and contacts can be reached with one click. A new dial pad enables direct calling of landlines and mobile phones, and users can see active subscriptions and recent calls in one view, as well as how much Skype Credit is remaining.
'Huge User Base'
Microsoft noted that Skype for Windows 8 means that a user can be reachable across devices that use the Windows platform, with the app running in the background without draining the battery. Video and voice calls, chats, and instant messages can be received even if the user has navigated away to another app or to the desktop.
Skype is also part of Windows 8's new People app, which the Redmond, Wash.-based technology giant called "a modern take on the contact lists and address books of the past." People is designed to be a cloud-connected address book, so that, after logging onto one's Skype account, all the Skype contacts show up in the People app.
Through People, work and personal contacts can be brought together, as can their social activities and photos, even if they aren't yet on Skype. Frequently called individuals can be pinned to the home screen, enabling a conversation to begin with a single click.
Current Analysis' Avi Greengart noted that Skype "has a huge user base today." While its availability for the new Windows platform is not a surprise, he said, it's "particularly important to Windows RT," as it's a critical app and RT will not have a huge supply of native apps when it launches.