The Outlook blog reports that Skype is finally available for all Outlook.com customers in North America as well as the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, France and Canada. Users located out of the listed countries should expect to see Skype integration soon. Does this mean Skype users should uninstall the desktop client or Windows 8 app? Probably not -- at least, not for right now.
"Email is an important and personal tool for most people, but there are moments when you want to be able to speak live or chat face-to-face," the Outlook team states. "In a recent Ipsos Public Affairs poll 76% of people say that their email conversations frequently or occasionally result in a follow up phone or video call, or other means of communication. Those moments are perfect for Skype and now, face-to-face connection right from your inbox is just a click away."
Skype can be accessed by hitting the little smiley chat balloon button residing next to the settings button on the right side of the Outlook client. This brings up a panel running vertically down the right side containing the user's chat messages. Click in the "Start New conversation" entry field, and a list of online friends appears, even Facebook friends and Google users (if connected). Video calls and phone calls can be made by clicking on the appropriate button within the individual's chat window.
"We believe that your email should work with things you already use," the team states. "Outlook.com already connects with your Facebook, Skype, and Google friends. Now that you can make Skype video calls from Outlook.com, it's even easier to stay connected to the people you care about most."
Microsoft began rolling out a preview version of Skype in Outlook.com back in April to a select group of people located in the United States and the United Kingdom. Now that it's rolled out to the masses, users will need to install the Skype web plug-in in order to make audio and video calls. This will be done once users try to place a call for the first time: simply agree to the install.
"The easiest way to send someone a message or to call them is to click on their picture. For example, if you get an email from someone and want to call them, use your mouse to point to their picture," the team states. "You'll see all the different ways you can reach them. If you already have someone in mind and want to send them a message or start a video call, just type their name into the Messaging pane."
Another good way to access all your friends in Outlook.com is to click on the down arrow next to the Outlook logo and choose "People" (Calendar and SkyDrive should be other options). Those that are online have a green stripe running down the left side of their icon. Naturally, the phone and video options only work with Skype contacts. Need to make a call to a land line or mobile phone? That will require Skype credit.
To celebrate the launch of Skype in Outlook.com, Microsoft has partnered with Gail Simmons, food expert and author, to announce a contest where consumers can submit a recipe for a chance to make a video call with Gail via Skype for Outlook.com. For more information, head here.