WEBMAIL USERS who favour Microsoft's Outlook.com, formerly called Hotmail, can now integrate Skype with their webmail accounts.
Skype has become a powerful weapon for Microsoft since its acquisition in 2011, owing to its large existing user base that has remained loyal in the face of Google's continued advances.
The new plugin for Windows adds an icon to the Outlook.com user interface allowing users to text, call and video chat to Skype contacts without having a desktop application installed. For the first time there is a plugin for Mac OS X, too. Both offer high definition video calling capability, as long as you have the necessary equipment, of course.
This is the first time that Microsoft has made the service available worldwide, after a limited launch in the US and Germany last year.
Several bug fixes were reported during the trial including an incompatibility bug between the plugin and desktop versions that made the phone carry on ringing after it was answered. Microsoft has assured users that this has now been rectified.
The idea of video calling within your web browser is similar to the basis for Google Hangouts, which offered similar functionality through it's Google+ social network, before being spun off into an app of its own.
There is, however, no love for the desktop version of Outlook, showing the direction that Microsoft is taking. Last year there was a volley of protest as the company removed support for third-party plugins, a mainstay of Skype since its launch, in order to shift focus to the mobile and web experience. µ