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Skype for Windows Phone 8.1 lets users upgrade calls to video chats, and more

Skype made a fleeting appearance on the opening day of Microsoft’s Build 2014 developer conference in San Francisco Wednesday, with the computer giant revealing details of a brand new Skype app set to launch with Windows Phone 8.1 in the coming months.

The headline feature of the new app is the ability to jump from a regular cellular call to a Skype video chat with a simple tap.

“We know Skype users feel most connected to their friends and family when they can see their faces,” Skype’s Lara Kingwell says on the company’s official blog. “For the first time on mobile, you can easily upgrade your regular phone calls to Skype video calls.”

Of course, for the feature (demonstrated below) to work, users will need to ensure they have both sets of details – cellular number and Skype information of their contact – on their handset.

Microsoft is touting the video upgrade capability as a Windows Phone-only feature, though it’s entirely possible it’ll find its way to Android and iOS at some point.

As you might expect, Microsoft is keen to get Cortana – its just-unveiled Siri-like personal assistant – integrated into its various apps and services from the get-go. With Skype for Windows Phone 8.1, users can easily initiate a video call via Cortana simply by uttering the words, “Skype video call [name of buddy].”

The new Skype app will, of course, bring with it all the usual features to which Windows Phone users of the Internet-based calling service have become accustomed, including real-time notifications and updates on the Live Tile, video instant messaging, and HD 720p video calling.

Skype, which launched in 2003, was acquired by Microsoft for $8.5 billion back in 2011. Before that, online auction site eBay purchased it for $2.6 billion, though that acquisition proved something of a fruitless exercise for both parties.

[Image: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock]