Microsoft announced its plans to buy the popular peer-to-peer VoIP service Skype in early 2011 and the acquisition closed last October. Since then, though, Microsoft mostly left Skype alone and continued to run it as a stand-alone product. With the release of the next version of Office, Microsoft is now integrating Skype closely into its office productivity suite. Skype will, for example, now power the “presence” feature in Outlook and – just like Yammer, Microsoft’s most recent acquisition – will become a default part of every version of Office.
It’s not clear if Microsoft is building other parts of Skype (including video chat) directly into its Lync communications platform for Office. According to Microsoft, though, Skype users will be able to “integrate Skype contacts in Lync.” Chances are that today’s announcement is just the beginning of Skype’s integration into more Office products.
Office 365, the new subscription-based version of Office, will now also offer its users 60 minutes of Skype credit per month. Microsoft hasn’t released many details about this service, but with the exceptions of mobile numbers in some countries and “special, premium and nongeographic numbers,” this should allow Office 365 Home Premium users to call phones virtually anywhere in the world. Microsoft hasn’t released any information about pricing for any of its Office 365 editions.
Microsoft, founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, is a veteran software company, best known for its Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software. Starting in 1980 Microsoft formed a partnership with IBM allowing Microsoft to sell its software package with the computers IBM manufactured. Microsoft is widely used by professionals worldwide and largely dominates the American corporate market. Additionally, the company has ventured into hardware with consumer products such as the Zune and...