With Windows 8 just around the corner, Microsoft has officially unveiled a version of Skype optimized for the new operating system, complete with a visual redesign to fit the touch friendly interface and OS-level integration so you never miss call or message. The new client will launch alongside Windows 8 on October 26 and will work with Surface for RT tablets, providing video and audio calling capabilities right off the bat.
The team behind Skype detailed some of the changes over at “The Big Blog”. First and foremost, as you’d expect Skype has adopted the Metro/Modern UI design language, with its own live tile on the Start page and features like full-screen video calling. The interface is minimal without overloading you with information and the app is always on in the background, even when it is closed, without draining your battery. On first launch, Skype will prompt you to link your Microsoft and Skype accounts, so you automatically sign in to both.
You can add contacts to the favorites screen, where they're displayed as large tiles. The new Skype app also integrates with Windows 8’s built-in People app, allowing you to start calls from the operating system’s address book. The latter also displays other forms of contact, like an email address or phone number, as well as recent activity on social networks like Facebook and Twitter (if you decide to link them).
Other features include the ability to snap Skype to the left or right of their screen, so they can continue the conversation as they look at another app. One feature that won’t be ready at launch is group video chat, though Skype said that ability is in the works and should be available soon. A new video messaging option will also arrive this fall alongside an update to iOS and Android apps to support it across the board.