Device operating systems

Microsoft Fills Hole in Skype

4:15 AM -- BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2012 -- Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) is finally putting one of its most valuable assets to work with the release of a Skype beta for Windows Phone. The full release is due out in April. (See Windows Phone's Missing Piece: Skype.)

The app lets users make free audio and videos calls to Skype contacts over 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi, cheap calls to landlines and mobiles and do group chat.

I'm interested to see how the beta phase goes for Microsoft. The app is already available on other operating systems, like Android and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), but Microsoft has the opportunity to differentiate its offering, seeing as it now owns the voice-over-IP service.

It is starting to do this by integrating it with its Metro user interface as seen in the following video:

So what else might the Beta phase bring to Skype on Windows Phone? I imagine we'll see tighter integration between the app and the OS, putting all the Skype-enabled calling options front and center. Video calling, too, could gain a lot of traction provided the network holds up. (See Microsoft Plans a WP7 Skype Soiree.)

As I've said before, Microsoft will have to tread carefully as to not upset its operator partners with its competing voice service, especially since it's not restricted to Wi-Fi. But, I expect we'll hear a lot more from Skype on Windows Phone.

Microsoft will need to differentiate to really make Skype a selling point for Windows Phone. After all, you don't spend US$8.5 billion on a company to launch an app that just mimics what other smartphone vendors can already do.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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