Skype Adds Direct Facebook Friends Video Chatting

The integration partnership deepens with direct connection for Facebook-to-Facebook calls through Skype

Skype, now part of Microsoft, is moving ahead with greater Facebook integration and some new features for its Mac and Windows versions.

The latest versions of Skype for Mac and Windows boast the ability to conduct Facebook-to-Facebook IM, voice and video calls from within Skype. Starting such a call involves connecting the user’s Skype and Facebook accounts, then selecting a Facebook friend with whom to chat.

Closer friendships

“This new feature lets you maintain social connections with your Facebook friends and complements previously announced features such as being able to see when your Facebook friends are online,” read a posting on the official Skype blog.

Skype is also smoothing the video-rendering capabilities of Skype 5.4 Beta for Mac, and has added to Skype 5.7 Beta for Windows a group screen-sharing capability for any Windows users with a Premium subscription.

Microsoft purchased Skype for $8.5 billion (£5.4bn) earlier this year, turning the voice over IP provider into a business division headed by Skype CEO Tony Bates (pictured left with Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook). Microsoft executives have repeatedly announced their intention to tightly integrate Skype’s assets with Microsoft products, ranging from Xbox Kinect to Windows Phone, although support for “non-Microsoft client platforms” such as the Mac will apparently continue.

Microsoft ended up paying far more for Skype than its previous overlord, eBay, which had agreed in 2005 to pay $2.6 billion (£1.6bn) in cash and stock for the then two-year-old company. Four years later, a team of private investors – including Silver Lake Partners and Andreessen Horowitz – took it off the auction Website’s hands for $1.9 billion (£1.2bn) in cash.

Before the Microsoft acquisition, Skype had supposedly been raising money for an initial public offering, but that offering was delayed after the company appointed Bates to the CEO role in October 2010.

Microsoft also has a tightening relationship with Facebook, whose social-networking features (such as the increasingly ubiquitous “Like” button) have been incorporated into the Bing search engine.

Despite the massive Skype acquisition, most of Microsoft’s recent corporate activity has centred on partnerships with Facebook, Nokia and the like. This spares Microsoft, despite its considerable financial reservoirs, from having to shell out billions on potentially risky takeovers; however, it also raises the spectre of discordance in strategic aims between partners.