April 30, 2013 at 6:11 PM ET
Microsoft has integrated Skype calling with its recently relaunched Outlook.com webmail app, allowing users to quickly call up a contact instead of emailing or messaging them. No separate application necessary — just hit the button.
The new feature, announced on the blogs of both Outlook and Skype, requires only that you download a plugin for your Web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome) and allow the two services to merge their contacts. After that, you'll be able to click on any of your Skype-connected friends and start a chat with a click.
Microsoft has made a point of letting Outlook.com be a cross-platform tool: it hooks into Facebook, LinkedIn, Google accounts and so on — and the Skype integration is the latest addition to the group. Serious integration was always to be expected after Microsoft bought Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion.
Right now the Skype plugin is only available to U.K.-based Outlook.com users, but the U.S. and Germany will be getting it sometime in the next few weeks, and the rest of the world will follow shortly thereafter.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.