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Skype announces new Windows 8 app ahead of 26 October launch

One of the most compelling uses for a tablet is easy video calling, and the leading player in that space, Skype, has announced that it will launch a version that works on the newest platform around — Windows 8.

This probably shouldn't be too huge of a surprise, considering that Microsoft acquired Skype just over a year ago.

"This is our big step forward together with Microsoft to introduce a completely new Skype experience, which is designed to be always on, immersive, effortless and fun to use," chief development and operations officer, Mark Gillett, wrote in a blog post.

Skype for Windows 8 will offer voice and video calling as it does on other platforms such as Mac OS X, iOS, Android, and older versions of Windows. As on those platforms, it can run in the background so that it's always ready to answer incoming calls.

Available from Microsoft's new Windows Store, the Skype Windows 8 app (see video, bottom) presents a "live tile" on the tablet or computer's Start screen, showing missed calls and waiting messages. It also integrates with the new OS's People app, which is where a user's contacts are organised and merged with social networks, email, phone numbers, and other contact methods.

After installing Skype and signing in with a Microsoft account, all of a user's Skype contacts are added to the People app. From People, the user can make VoIP, landline, or mobile calls using Skype credits, as well as place video calls and send direct messages.

"Your conversations are more accessible to you than ever," Gillett wrote, "and you can switch fluidly from chat to video or audio calls."

Unlike Apple's competing FaceTime video calling feature, Skype runs on all major desktop and mobile platforms. FaceTime is only available for Apple's own Mac OS X and iOS operating systems. Skype also combines voice-only and instant messaging, whereas the Apple platforms require separate apps for these services. Skype for Windows Phone 7 was released in the spring.

According to the blog post, Skype will ship preloaded on new Windows 8 devices, but will also be available starting 26 October from the Windows Store.