Microsoft Outlook users in the UK can now make and receive voice and video calls from within the Outlook web client — with the same functionality set to roll out to the US and Germany in the coming weeks.
The move was announced on Tuesday and is designed to more closely integrate the US giant's communication platforms. Microsoft completed its $8.5bn acquisition of Skype in October 2011.
"Sometimes that quick call can accomplish more than a long email reply. That's why we are bringing Skype audio and video calling to your Outlook.com inbox," the company said in a blog post on Tuesday. "With Skype for Outlook.com, you can choose the right medium for your message, whether it is an email, call, video call or instant message (IM) — you can connect with your Skype and Messenger friends all in the same place."
While users can now make and receive calls directly from the inbox, a one-off browser plugin download is required to get the service up and running. The plugin, which is not required to use Skype's IM features, is currently available for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome.
It's not currently available for Safari browser users, however, and while a spokeswoman for the company said "Microsoft will continue to expand browser support for Skype in Outlook.com", she could not confirm that it would be made available for Safari specifically.
Microsoft unveiled the revamped Outlook.com service in July 2012 but has done little until now to bring the two products together. It's thought that Microsoft will bring the design of Skype on each platform closer to its Windows 8 style look and feel already present throughout Windows 8 and on Outlook.com.