Skype today brought its increased integration with Microsoft services to the iPhone and iPad with the new release 4.2.1 available in the iOS AppStore. As you can already do in the Windows, Mac and Android versions of Skype, the big feature is that you can now sign in with your "Microsoft account" and merge our Skype contacts with those from Windows Live Messenger (WLM) and Outlook.com. You will now be able to chat back and forth with your WLM contacts directly from within Skype.
This is very cool from the point-of-view that Skype has always been a "walled garden" of instant messaging (IM) that did not interoperate with any other service. Many of us long ago wound up having to use two IM clients on our system: 1) Skype; and 2) a multi-service client (like Adium or Pidgin) for all the other IM networks. This doesn't quite solve that problem because it is now really just expanding the Skype client to work with two IM networks, but it is at least a step toward greater interop.
In a post on Skype's "Garage" blog, Beom Soo Park indicates these new features:
- Sign in with your Microsoft Account to merge your Windows Live Messenger, Outlook.com and Skype accounts - then IM those contacts direct from Skype.
- Ability to edit and delete instant messages
- Choose an emoticon while typing an instant message via a new emoticon picker
- Animated emoticons for devices with a Retina display
- Edit phone numbers from the dial pad
- Create a new Skype account when you download the app
- UI improvements
Skype's post on their "Big Blog" has a bit more detail and mentions that Skype for iOS has now been downloaded over 120 million times. The improvements to the chat interface, particularly the editing, will definitely be useful. I personally don't really care about the improved emoticons, but I know some people do like those and will be pleased.
My only criticism is that in order to make use of the Microsoft integration you have to log out of your Skype account and then login with your Microsoft account, at which point you presumably can merge the accounts. It's not a big deal to me, as I don't use a "Microsoft account" these days. I certainly did have a WLM login that I used to use years ago, but I haven't used it in years and don't really feel any compelling need to do so. Still, it would be nice if the Microsoft account could just be added to your existing Skype login as you can do in so many other IM clients.
Anyway, Skype 4.2.1 for iOS/iPad/iPhone is now out there and ready for download from the AppStore.
P.S. If you installed Skype 4.2 yesterday, you'll need to go back to the AppStore today to get Skype 4.2.1 as there were some critical bugs that were fixed in 4.2.1.
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