Skype released a preview version of its video call and chat application for Microsoft Windows Phone 8 devices on Monday. The early edition isn’t quite complete yet, but offers enough functionality for handset owners to install and try it. This is the first Skype release for Windows-powered phones since Microsoft bought Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion.
The new Skype application is completely redesigned for what used to be called the Metro user interface in Windows Phone 8: An elegant landscape-heavy view with large touch points for interaction. And unlike legacy versions of Skype, this edition is an “always on” experience, meaning you can receive calls or chat messages even when the application isn’t running in the background. Microsoft and Skype have also added heavy contact integration between the app and the Windows Phone 8 People hub.
Here’s a quick video overview of the new Skype application, which can be installed here, followed by some of the notable features. Bear in mind that in this preview version, the app isn’t guaranteed to work 100 percent,
- Skype contacts in the People Hub
- Login with Microsoft or Skype account
- Connect with Messenger buddies
- Always reachable
- Calls in background and call holding
- Favorite contacts
- Visual notification of call being held by remote party
- Presence in contact list
Although Microsoft will surely continue to evolve Skype for other platforms, I suspect the best Skype experience will be held back for Windows Phone handsets, much like FaceTime is being kept on Apple iOS devices. That could be an important point for people considering which platform to invest in, but I don’t anticipate it being a primary significant driver of Windows Phone 8 sales.