Microsoft previews Skype for Outlook.com

Preview allows users to make calls and send instant messages from within the webmail service using browser plug-in

Microsoft is rolling out a preview version of Skype for Outlook.com, allowing users to make calls and send instant messages from within the webmail service using a browser plug-in.

The preview is available to U.K. customers users and is coming to the United States and Germany in the coming weeks with worldwide availability this summer, Skype said in a blog post.

[ Also on InfoWowrld: Microsoft's Outlook.com comes out of preview phase. | Stay ahead of the key tech business news with InfoWorld's Today's Headlines: First Look newsletter. ]

For the Outlook.com version of Skype to work users have to download a plug-in for their browser. The plug-in is available for the most recent versions of Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox. The next and final step is to connect Skype to Outlook.com using a Microsoft account. Customers with an existing Skype account will be asked to merge their Microsoft and Skype accounts, which will allow them to add all of their Skype contacts to Outlook.com, according to the blog post.

The integration allows users to make audio or video calls and send instant messages from Outlook.com. For example, to start a call while reading an email from a contact on Outlook.com, users just have to move the mouse over the contact's picture and click on the Skype audio or video call button.

Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011 to add voice and video communications to its existing software. Outlook.com is a free personal email service from the company. Recently Microsoft also launched a version of Skype that integrates with its smartphone operating system Windows Phone 8.

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