The new design, which Microsoft announced Wednesday, puts users' Skype contacts, messaging and video chat in a pane to the right of the inbox. One-on-one conversations and group chats are displayed in a column of bubbles along the right-hand side of the window, so users can get easy access to them.
Like in past versions of the integration, users can place voice and video calls to their contacts inside the browser, so long as they have Microsoft's Skype plugin installed.
People who are familiar with Outlook.com's old messaging pane will be used to the design of Skype's functionality, which looks remarkably similar. The update will roll out to all Outlook.com users "in the coming months," so it will be a while before everyone gets access to it.
It comes at a time when Microsoft is trying to position Skype not just as a video chat application, but also as a cross-platform messaging service similar to Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Viber. Those other applications have grown in popularity in recent years, especially on mobile devices. Improving the interface on Outlook.com means that users of Microsoft's email service may have a greater reason to lean on the messaging service.
Microsoft also rolled out changes to Skype for Mac and iPhone. The former received a redesigned chat input field with support for quickly sending photos, files, contacts and video messages, along with the ability to drag and drop images into the chat box. The app also received a few bug fixes, but one new issue some users have reported prevents people from changing inputs for audio and video.
Skype for iPhone got an update to show a preview of web pages sent as links in chat conversations so that users know what they'll be looking at. The service's accompanying Apple Watch app also received an update that supports voice-to-text input for sending messages from the watch, along with the ability to manage incoming calls.
Perhaps most importantly, Skype for iPhone's update also prevents the app from getting stuck in a crashing loop when users received a particular string of text. All of the other Skype apps affected by the same bug also received updates.