It was only a matter for time before Microsoft married its own Messenger service with its newly-acquired Skype. The company released on Friday the beta version of Skype 5.11 for Windows which allows users to sign into Skype using their Microsoft account and to chat with their Messenger, Xbox, Hotmail and Outlook friends without having to load two separate clients.
"You can now sign into Skype directly using a Microsoft or Facebook account, without having to first create a Skype account, making it easier to connect with friends on Skype without needing to setup a new Skype account," the Skype blog reads. "If you sign in with a Microsoft or Facebook account you will be offered the option to link your Skype account. If you choose the link option then Skype will display a combined list of friends. This is an area we are still working through so please let us know about your experience."
The new Skype's revamped interface is also suspiciously familiar, appearing flattened and blocky like Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system. But it's also somewhat cleaner, less cluttered, making bugging your friends and family with random chatter even easier. Other new features include the removal of the online user count, and the ability to display previously created profile pictures.
What's not obvious is how current Skype members can add their Windows Live Messenger account. Technically they don't as they do with Facebook – the option to use a Microsoft account is actually on the sign-in screen instead. That said, Skype users must log out and then sign in with their Microsoft account (the option is on the right). After that, they must choose the "I have a Skype account" button. As the blog indicates for new users, merely select the account to merge, type in the password, and there you go: Messenger, Facebook and Skype all in one client.
That said, all your Messenger friends now appear on the Contacts list with the "Messenger" designation under their name.
"We are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of our product," the Skype team writes. "To that end we are adding additional "opt-in" telemetry reports for users who choose this option: "Tools>> Options>>Advanced>>Tick "Help improve Skype..." The reports may contain your Skype ID and or Microsoft Account ID but we will not use it to identify you or contact you."
For more information about the new beta, head here. Want to dive right in and update your Skype client to this Messenger-enhanced version? Then download the beta right here. Does this new Skype beta finally minimize to the system tray. No, it does not (sigh).