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Microsoft builds Skype into

Software giant Microsoft has begun to integrate VoIP favourite Skype into its email platform

With a preview version of the service now being rolled out in the UK, users will be able to launch video conversations with contacts directly from their browser. Skype says previews will follow in the US and Germany over “the coming weeks.”

The feature offers a significant boost to Microsoft’s Outlook service, which has attracted some 60 million new users in six months according to the company. With old messaging flagship Hotmail being phased out, Microsoft continues to harness its Skype division having acquired the group for some $8.5 billion in 2011.

“We all face those situations where it’s just easier to jump on a call to talk something through," says Skype on its company blog. “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 inbox.

“Now, with Skype for, 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.”

Taking advantage of Skype for Outlook requires a one-off plug-in download, while customers already owning a Skype account will be able to merge their contacts into their email profile.

Microsoft is spinning a fair few plates across its various platforms right now, having this week announced the launch date for its rumoured Xbox 720 console – news that has sparked fresh rumours about the console’s specs and features.