I have not touched Skype since the advent of FaceTime, and Viber video calls, but there is still definitely a huge user-base for the service especially in the enterprise market. Integrating Skype across their line of mobile and desktop products has been high on Microsoft’s priorities with post-acquisition Skype – the latest product to be integrated is Outlook.com. Let’s go hands on!
Microsoft’s modern reimagining of Hotmail has been positively received by users. So positively, in fact, that – at least in my circle of friends, and colleagues – people have actually shifted from long-time crowd-favorite Gmail. Gmail has hardly changed over the past few years; Outlook.com is a major shift in how web email looks and, as a consequence, works. Yes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. However, Gmail has looked and worked largely the same since mid 2000s. I find it rather odd saying this, but Gmail is starting to get a bit boring!
Now, Outlook.com has had the option to chat with Facebook and Google friends for a good time now, but the addition of Skype voice and video calling takes the cake!
It works (almost) as expected. Just sign in to your Microsoft account on Outlook.com, click on the smiley icon in the top-right corner to launch chat, and away you go! Skype is already connected with your account, so all you need to do is click ‘Start new conversation’, and initiate a video call, right?
Well, no. Skype on Outlook.com will first need a plugin to be installed for video/audio chat. I was hoping I wouldn’t need to install a browser plugin, but alas! Web standards are not advanced enough. WebRTC still needs a lot of work before – if ever – big companies like Microsoft adopt it.
Installing the 5MB plugin was painless. However, video chats simply refused to work. Skype on Outlook.com refused to recognize my webcam! I did test audio chat though, and at least that worked well. Voice quality was top-notch!
I would not mind shifting to Outlook.com, but the effort-to-shift vs. productivity boost ratio remains low, especially considering I am using Google Apps for a custom domain (awaisimran.com), and Mailbox on iOS, which doesn’t yet support Outlook. For everyone else though, the addition of Skype in the browser makes Outlook.com an even more enticing alternative to Gmail.