Microsoft Corp. is extending Skype’s video and voice features to Outlook.com giving users the ability to make voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls from the free email service.
The service is now available in the United Kingdom and will be rolled out in the United States and Germany in the coming weeks. There is no word yet on when it will be available in Canada.
Outlook.com is a free personal email service from Microsoft. In the first six weeks of its launch, Outlook.com attracted more than 60 million new users.
Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion. Many analysts saw this move as a way for the software company to grow brand name recognition on the Internet at a time when Microsoft is struggling to achieve more traction in the consumer market.
Other companies such as Facebook, Cisco and Google have considered acquiring or partnering with Skype, which despite its popularity registered a $7 million loss in 2010.
Skype for Outlook.com requires a one-time download of a browser plugin which is available for the most recent versions of Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox.
After downloading the plugin, users can connect Skype to Outlook.com using their Microsoft account.
Skype for Outlook.com is part of Microsoft’s strategy of integrating Skype to its existing platforms. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced key upgrades to Lync which included audio call, instant messaging and share presence as well as enhanced interoperability with Skype.