Skype, the communication software that brought us FaceTime before FaceTime and made VoIP truly accessible, has now been reworked to hit the forthcoming wave of Windows 8/RT devices scheduled to launch at the end of October and beyond.
The program has had a visual overhaul and what’s more, a technical one too. It fits perfectly with the new Windows 8 tile interface that we’ve already seen in spades, but the program itself now put a focus on full screen usage, far more like an app than a piece of typical desktop software.
Users will recognise all of the same friends, contacts and social network integration from before, but with a far less cluttered UI. Notifications too resemble Microsoft’s own design handiwork, but the real party trick lies in the program’s optimisation. We saw first hand that even though you’ll still be able to receive messages, Skype calls and contact invites like normal, so long as Skype is running in the background it utilises 0% of your processor, which is great for power users and those who expect to use their RT tabs on battery.
Taking a leaf out of Windows Phone’s book, Skype’s new contacts UI groups your full address book as a list, whilst allowing you the ability to pin and auto-pin favourites and often-used contacts in a more visually please and easier to understand tile design. Placing a call now defaults to full screen video off the bat (which no doubt you’ll be able to change in the preferences) and jumping between voice and text based chat is seamless as text appears in a floating bubble next to your friend’s head.
The last key factor is that the program is already well optimised for Windows 8’s multitasking capabilities. The user can drag across a secondary program and Skype, whether in chat or video, can scale appropriately to fit, meaning that even if its left to the minority of the screen, you can see you video chat without issue.
We’re excited to see how the Microsoft/Skype relationship has translated to smartphones too, but it looks like we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out – Skype published on their blog just an hour ago that Skype for Windows 8 will be available to those with a compatible device from the Windows Store from Friday (October 26th).