Microsoft Outlook.com Integration with Skype
Microsoft has announced that the integration of Skype and Outlook.com is now finally available in the US and Canada, as well as a number of European countries, having announced a preview version of the integration in the UK at the end of April.
Outlook.com On General Release
There is little difference between the preview version of the integration announced in April and this release, even if it is limited to United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, France, Canada and the United States. Microsoft says that it is working hard to make it available in other countries, but hasn’t said when that will be.
Neither has it said what the delay is, but given the recent negative publicity around the Outlook.com outage last week, it really needs to give users globally something to cheer about.
The announcement was made last night by Dawn Martynuik Group Product Manager at Outlook.com in a blog post, which said that the driving principal behind the integration was to enable uses to do all their work from their email accounts.
This ties in with the original idea behind replacing Hotmail with Outlook.com. At the time Microsoft said it aimed to create an email service that could be used by everyone as their personal email account, but also a service that business users could work from.
Outlook.com v Gmail
To large extent it has managed to do this by connecting with social networks like Facebook, Skype and Google Friends. A video calling application had been missing until now, but after Microsoft bought Skype it was clear that it was going to try and tie it into as many of its existing products as it could.
Outlook.com was, and is, an obvious candidate for this and was put into a limited beta at the end of last April. The start of a general roll-out now, however slow, gives it something it can really hold up to Gmail.
While Gmail also ties in to Google Hangouts, Microsoft is really developing Skype as a product in its own right. This means that any improvements in Skype will also improve the Skype experience in Outlook.com. It also means that the video calling experience should be a bit better than Google.
Meanwhile, Skype itself should also benefit from a wide and deeper footprint as a result of the 400 million Outlook.com accounts that Microsoft says it has registered.
The combination of email and video call is a smart pairing. Citing figures from an Ipsos Public Affairs poll, Martynuik says 76% of people say email conversations result in follow-up phone calls or video calls. With Skype available in Outlook.com’s inbox, it’s the obvious choice for those calls.