With Windows 8 going on sale in just four days, Microsoft is doing a sensible thing and releasing a version of Skype optimized for Win 8. As you'd expect, Skype for Windows 8 has the same overarching look and feel as other apps, which is to say you can swipe from left to right to see different categories, such as recent activity, favorites and a complete contacts list. But the integration with Windows 8 goes a little deeper than that. Just as you can pinch your Live Tiles to zoom out and make them easier to navigate, you can use semantic zoom to sift through a long list of contacts. And, because Skype runs in the background, you can set up your Start Screen so that the Skype Live Tile shows notifications for things like missed calls. Additionally, Skype is now baked into the People Hub, so that someone's Skype handle shows up alongside other forms of contact, like an email address or phone number.
The in-call experience has also been modified to take advantage of certain features in Win 8. For one, you can link your Skype and Microsoft account, so that when you log into your system using your Microsoft ID, you'll already be logged into Skype. While on a call, you can conduct video chats using the whole screen, at which point chat messages from that person will show up as text bubbles on the side of the screen. At any time, you can swipe to see other recent activity, which could be handy if you're juggling multiple IM conversations at once.
If you prefer, you can also dock Skype on the side of the screen, as you can with any other program in Win 8. With the Skype chat taking up just a third (or two thirds) of the screen, you can use that remaining real estate for an IM chat within Skype, or maybe a web search. Lastly, if you return to the home screen, there's a large phone icon up top where you'll find the dialer, whose number pad allow your fingers plenty of room to hit the right keys. You'll see your balance listed there, too, in the event you're not planning on making a free call to another Skype user. That's our quick summary of what's new, but if you like you'll soon be able to experience it for yourself: the app will be available for free in the Windows Store on October 26th.