Monday morning, Skype released Skype for Windows 5.5. Beta, adding more extras to its already deep integration with Facebook. A minor move, yet it may foreshadow a bigger step to come.
The new, friendlier Skype 5.5 Beta for Windows allows you to send instant messages to your Facebook friends via Skype, like and comment on friends' status updates without logging into Facebook, and view all the contacts in a Facebook-dedicated contacts list on Skype.
Previously, Skype released new Windows software with deep Facebook integration, allowing users to view Facebook news feeds and posts from within the application, and place Skype calls to Facebook friends through mobile phone numbers posted on their Facebook profile.
The two applications are further integrated through Skype 5.5 Beta for Windows, and cross-platform messages have become more seamless.
The free beta software also adds some general fixes and changes, such as a redesigned call control toolbar, an easier way to save a phone number and visual improvements.
Microsoft-acquired Skype & Facebook vs. Google
Skype was acquired by Microsoft for $8.5 billion in May 2011, and is deepening its integration with Facebook through its close relationship with Microsoft.
Earlier this year, both Facebook and the No.1 search engine Google were reportedly looking for a tie-up with Skype. However, it was publicly announced that Google's attempt to partner with Facebook was rejected by the social networking giant.
A deal with Skype would give Facebook an immediate way to add voice and video conferencing to the pretty lame messages feature it introduced last year, and would prevent third parties like T-Mobile and Vivox from filling this niche. The integration of Skype service would also keep Facebook users longer on the site.
In the fourth quarter of 2010, Skype averaged more than 145 million connected users per month. While it is smaller than the 600 million active Facebook accounts, both companies' user bases can benefit each other through subscribers already active on Skype coming on to the Facebook platform.
Skype may be revitalized through the inflow of Facebook users as well. Facebook contacts are already synced into the contacts application in smartphones. Its convenience in the face of ever-changing contact information keeps Facebook the most popular database to have at hand.
Skype filed for an IPO last year, but in January the company reportedly delayed it until late 2011, and sources said Skype might consider a buyout for $5 to $6 billion.
Now that Google's proposal was turned down, Skype is likely to stick with Facebook, to take down Microsoft's top rival.
The integration with Skype on the desktop is a mere beginning. Further integration and development are expected for Facebook and Skype, especially in the rapidly growing mobile market.