Microsoft touts Skype for Windows 8, Windows RT launch on Friday

Will be pre-installed on devices from 11 OEMs, but not initially on the Surface RT

Microsoft today said that a free Windows 8 and Windows RT Skype app will be ready for downloading from the Windows Store on Friday, Oct. 26.

The long-rumored app -- bloggers have been posting leaked screenshots of Skype for Windows 8 for months -- will also be pre-installed on new PCs and tablets from a slew of first-tier OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

Devices from Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, LG, MSI, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba will have Skype pre-loaded, a Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed today.

Microsoft's own Surface RT tablet will not sport Skype out of the box, however. "It was a matter of not being able to align shipping schedules," the spokeswoman said in an email reply to questions Monday. "Skype will be shipping with Surface in the future."

All Windows 8 and Windows RT users will be able to download the app from the Windows Store free of charge starting Friday, the on-sale date for the new operating systems and the hardware they power.

"This is our big step forward together with Microsoft to introduce a completely new Skype experience, which is designed to be always on, immersive, effortless and fun to use," Mark Gillett, the chief development and operations officer at Skype, said in a blog post today.

Microsoft acquired Skype last year for $8.5 billion.

The app, written for the user interface (UI) once dubbed "Metro" but now alternately labeled "Modern" and "Windows 8 style" by Microsoft, features that UI's minimalist design; supports "Snap," which lets users run two apps side-by-side; coordinates with Windows' new "People" app; and can run in full-screen mode.

Microsoft's Surface RT tablet has a pair of cameras -- one forward-facing for video conferencing, one on the back of the device.

Previously, Microsoft has pledged to continue development of Skype on non-Windows platforms, but Gillett did not elaborate on any plans to revamp, say, the OS X, iOS or Android editions.

The company has made other Skype-related announcements recently, including a promise to include a credit of 60 minutes per month for international calling with its Office-by-subscription plans for consumers, Office 365 Home Premium.

Rival Apple has its own video chat app -- FaceTime -- which it unveiled in 2010 and now bundles with OS X for Macs and iOS for iPhones and iPads. Apple, however, has never expanded FaceTime support beyond its own operating systems. Skype, on the other hand, runs on all supported versions of Windows -- including the 11-year-old XP -- as well as on Amazon's Kindle Fire, Android, iOS, Linux, OS X, Sony's PlayStation Vita, Symbian and Windows Phone.

Skype for "Metro" -- it runs on both Windows 8 and Windows RT -- shows recent calls and instant messages alongside the most-frequently-pinged contacts. (Image: Microsoft.)

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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