Skype for Surface RT

Windows RT is a more scaled-down version of Windows 8, as many tech writers have noticed in days past. However, Skype is one of the few applications on Windows RT that will also exist on Windows 8 when the Surface Pro tablet is released in early 2013. Skype has always been known as an application that provides voice calls, text, and video chat for free; nevertheless, Microsoft has some special changes in store for the veteran application that has made the company famous across the World Wide Web. Microsoft has not always been the parent company of Skype; rather, Microsoft acquired Skype, a voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) service, in 2011 for $8.5 billion. Voice over Internet Protocol is a form of technology in which voice calls, texts, and other audible communications are made possible by way of Internet technologies (computer, mobile devices, etc.). VoIP is distinguished from landline phone calls.

The following changes have been made to Skype for Windows 8 compatibility:

  •  Microsoft account integration
  • Contact additions on Windows 8 home screen
  • Swipe up or down for recent activity log
  • Multitasking such as simultaneous Skype calls and web surfing
  • Notifications for missed calls when Skype app is closed
  • New video messaging option

One feature of the new Skype for Windows 8 is Microsoft account integration. Apple achieved this with its Facebook integration in iOS6. Facebook integration allows you the opportunity at every turn to “share” something on your Facebook wall so that all your friends can see, or send something to friends and relatives who are also Facebook users. Once you log in to Facebook, you are logged in automatically unless you choose to log out manually. The convenience of automatic login provides a convenience whereby you can send anything to Facebook in a matter of seconds. Microsoft hopes to achieve a similar feat with its Microsoft account integration with Skype. When you log into your Microsoft account, you will be automatically logged in to your Skype account. This prevents the arduous task of logging in to one account and then losing time by logging in to the other. Account integrations have become one of the new conveniences of mobile devices. Why require two log-ins (and be forced to remember two usernames and passwords) when you can log-in once and gain access to both?

Another feature of Skype for Windows 8 is home screen contact access. From your home screen, you can select a contact to talk to, add contacts, delete contacts, and so on. You do not need to access Skype in order to view your contacts. The home screen for Windows 8 devices provides your contact list at first sight by way of a new People Hub feature, part of Windows 8. The People Hub feature involves social networks and contacts as well as emails and messages from those who are part of your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google +). This is where the Windows 8 home screen layout becomes genius: the fact that it allows numerous applications to exist on the home screen in a playful and creative manner.

Want to see your former web activity or Skype calls? Just swipe up or down from the top of your Windows 8 home screen App Bar. This is a feature present in both Android smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 other mobile devices such as Apple’s iPad and iPod Touch.

There are other features you should check out with Skype for Windows 8, such as Skype Credit and a new video messaging option for long-standing Skype customers. Skype Credit allows you to make audio calls as well as send text messages from your contact screen – without logging in to the Skype app (for a small annual fee) and Microsoft will add a new video messaging feature to its Skype app for release on Windows RT (released on Oct. 26, 2012) and Windows 8 (early 2013). The video messaging feature places Microsoft in a new field of tablet manufacturers. Video messaging is essentially a feature whereby you can send a “hello” or special announcement (be it a reminder or a thought) to a friend or relative by way of a few seconds or minutes of video chat time. In the past, Internet messages have always been available through text typing; video messaging, however, is changing the typical text type by offering an audio message instead of a usual text message. With video messaging, you can speak in front of your local screen and send an announcement the same way you send voicemail – the difference being that your video message involves your facial appearance while voicemail only tracks your voice. Video messaging, in a sense, is a hybrid version of voicemail and video chat, all rolled into one.

Skype for Windows 8 will present Surface tablet customers with some of the familiar and some surprise. If you want to start video messaging your social networks, you can get started this coming Friday. Pick up your Microsoft Surface RT tablet at one of Microsoft’s “pop-up” stores this weekend.