It's no big surprise, but Microsoft officials are confirming that Skype will be one of the set of Microsoft-developed consumer apps that will be "in the box" with Windows 8.1.
In a blog post on August 15, Ryan Gavin -- the former Internet Explorer General Manager whose new title is General Manager of the newly created Microsoft Apps & Services unit -- confirmed Skype will be among the apps Microsoft ships as part of the Windows 8.1 package (for both Intel- and ARM-based devices). Other appss in that group include Xbox Music, Video, Games, SkyDrive, Internet Explorer, Photos, Mail, the Bing AppEx apps (like Sports, Finance, Travel) and more.
What's with all the bundling? Didn't Microsoft shy away from doing this after getting its hand slapped by the U.S. antitrust authorities a decade-plus ago? It's a bolder Microsoft these days, with execs noting that if all its competitors bundle, Microsoft should be able to, as well.... Plus, like any of the Microsoft-developed "in-the-box" apps, users can unpin them from their Windows 8.1 Start screens or uninstall them completely, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed.
With Windows 8, Skype did not ship as one of the set of Microsoft pre-installed apps. Instead, Skype for Windows 8 was made available as a downloadable Windows Store app on October 26, the day Windows 8 and its ARM-based sibling, Windows RT, were made generally available. Skype for Windows 8 also was set to be preinstalled on "the top 12 Windows OEMs' machines," Skype officials said.
Skype wasn't preinstalled on Surface RT devices right out of the gate because Skype didn't quite make the internal deadline cut-off for preinstallation, Skype officials admitted last year.
Microsoft has opted to kill off its Messenger instant-messaging product and is replacing it with Skype, which has built-in instant messaging.
It's probably worth noting here that Microsoft is working on adding new functionality to Skype during its fiscal 2014 (which runs through June 30, 2014), including support for large meetings; support for enterprise voice (probably in conjunction with Lync integration, I'd think); and deeper integration with Outlook.com and Office 365.