When we started this year as usual with our annual predictions, we suggested that Microsoft would have some material announcements about the integration of Skype and Lync, and while we're still waiting for that to (hopefully) happen, late last month Microsoft did announce that it is integrating Skype connectivity features with Outlook.com.
In a blog post on Skype.com, Microsoft disclosed that, with a preview version of Skype for Outlook.com, users can enjoy Skype video and audio calls directly from their inbox. The post, dated April 29, noted that initially the preview version would initially only be available for Outlook.com inboxes based in the United Kingdom, with availability for the United States and Germany in the coming weeks.
Outlook.com is a free personal email service from Microsoft that, according to the blog post, attracted more than 60 million new users in the first six months after it launched. Outlook.com is replacing Microsoft's Hotmail service, with a full transition expected by the end of summer.
Skype for Outlook.com requires a one-time download of a browser plug-in which is available for the most recent versions of Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox. After the plug-in is downloaded, users can connect Skype to Outlook.com using a Microsoft account. The feature allows users to choose between email messages, voice calls, video calls, or an instant message (IM) from the user's Skype and Messenger contacts.
Our observations: Click to call from an UC portal has been a longstanding feature for business users, and we find it interesting that it personal/consumer services like free email are also including a is click to call feature. But we believe that, just like email and voice mail moved as a popular feature from the office to home use, so too will unified communications options become more prevalent among personal users.