Less than 48 hours ahead of its launch of Windows 8, Microsoft has unveiled Skype for Desktop 6.0 for Windows and Skype for Mac 6.0, a major new release of its popular cross-platform chat tool. Skype for Desktop 6.0 focuses on improving integration with existing Microsoft Messenger and Facebook services.
New features include the ability to log in using either Microsoft or Facebook accounts before linking all three together. One reason for doing so is that Skype now supports IM conversations with Messenger contacts as well as other Skype and Facebook friends.
Options for signing in with Microsoft or Facebook accounts appear on the main login screen – if you currently log in automatically you’ll need to sign out first to log in using either alternative service. While it’s possible to link to Facebook accounts from within Skype itself, you’ll need to log in first with your Microsoft Account to be given the option of linking that.
Version 6 also debuts a simplified visual design in keeping with the flattened and minimalist approach adopted in Windows 8. The end result is a simpler, less cluttered look and features such tweaks as the removal of the online user counter.
Mac users with Retina displays will also be pleased to learn Skype for Desktop 6.0 promises full Retina support. Also added is support for opening multiple chat windows – this feature was dropped from an early version of Skype, a move which divided the user base.
Other changes include support for switching back to previously used profile pictures, so long as those pictures are currently stored in the user’s profile folder. Sadly this feature isn’t functioning correctly on Macs running Mountain Lion, with recent images not able to be seen and effects unable to be added.
Although labelled version 6.0, this build actually debuted in beta form as Skype 5.11.0 last month and is practically identical in functionality, although Skype has got one major new feature planned for implementation in the next few weeks, support for video and audio calls with Windows Live Messenger users.
Skype for Desktop 6.0 is available now as a freeware download for Windows along with Skype 6.0 for Mac. It will automatically detect and update any existing installations.