Skype has released a new update for Windows and Mac desktops that integrates new social features via Facebook and Microsoft. It’s a significant feature upgrade that offers a glimpse of the potential for the app to compete with messaging services like Imo.im, an ambitious undertaking. But for now the update is merely an extension of the changes that are coming to Skype after its $8.5 billion acquisition by Microsoft.
We’re beginning to see more and more cross-integration between Microsoft products and Skype; Microsoft announced just two days ago that Skype was being tightly integrated into Windows 8. You’ll be able to receive and send calls even when you’ve navigated to another app since it will run on the Windows 8 desktop in the background.
Today’s update, on the other hand, brings Microsoft’s products to Skype, while adding a splash of social with Facebook. Users can now connect to Skype without logging directly into their Skype account, instead logging in with Facebook or a Messenger, Hotmail, or Outlook account. This means you can also use the client to chat with Facebook or Microsoft account contacts all under one roof.
Using three different logins could turn out to be an account management nightmare, so when we checked out the update we were pleased to be prompted to merge our exiting Skype account with our Facebook profile. The same applies when logging in with your Microsoft accounts.
We did notice that the Facebook login feature was buggy at the time of this writing. We were forced to log in twice since our first attempt returned us to the sign-in page. Before you decide to associate your Facebook and Microsoft accounts with Skype, heed this fairly obvious warning: Your Skype contact list will expand significantly since you’ll be adding all of your Facebook and Messenger contacts who are and aren’t using Skype to your current address book. If you can get past the massive contact list, you might enjoy the fact that you can now message all your friends from one application.
Other updates to the desktop app for Windows include support for six more languages (bringing the total to 38): Thai, Croatian, Slovenian, Serbian, Catalan and Slovak have been added. You’ll also recognize that icon colors are muted and gradients have been removed to bring a slight Windows 8-like feel to the redesign, although the user interface itself remains unchanged. Other minor changes include removing online user counts and displaying previously used profile pictures in case you want to revert to a former profile image.
As for updates to the Mac desktop app, users can now open chats in multiple windows, and Skype has listened to its users and added support for Retina Display.