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Microsoft shoehorns Skype into Outlook.com - we quickly kick the tyres

Phonecalls-in-webmail plugin unleashed on the web, what could possibly go wrong?

Outlook.com logo

Vid Microsoft has slotted voice-chat app Skype into Outlook.com, melding email and telephony into a single platform - which almost works smoothly.

The functionality comes with a browser plugin, and makes video and voice calling as simple as sending an email, aping Google's Hangout platform but with Skype's infrastructure.

Outlook will keep track of one's existing Skype account, storing the password and username – though given they're both run by Microsoft that's not really a security issue. One's Skype contacts are supposed to appear in Outlook, but when we tried it they all appeared as "(Unnamed)" and lacked any contact details at all, forcing us to go back to the Skype client to call them.

Here's a video of how someone in Redmond imagined the software would work:

But others have had more luck integrating their accounts so perhaps we shouldn't judge the service just yet. The plugin is available for Internet Explorer 8 and higher, Chrome 19 and Firefox 12, on Windows. Mac users will need Chrome or Firefox, but don't expect compatibility with Safari or the Mac version of IE either.

Windows RT users will be disappointed too, as the plugin won't work for them, but RT users are probably used to such disappointments by now.

But assuming one has the right browser, and agrees to merge Skype and Outlook accounts, then a bar should pop up offering the Skype plugin and everything should work perfectly.

The move was announced earlier this year, and has been in testing for a while, so it comes as no surprise. Bringing together two of Microsoft's most important brands is a sensible move, though one has to wonder how long the Skype brand will last in this new world of truly unified communications. ®

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