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Skype for Windows 8 brings clean design, power improvements

Skype has come to Windows 8, bringing an improved design, better battery management and Windows Live integration.

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Skype has brought its ever-popular video-calling app to Windows 8, offering integration into your Windows contacts, vastly improved power management and, of course, the streamlined Windows 8 design. That's only to be expected -- Microsoft paid an awful lot of money for Skype, after all.

The most obvious update to the app is the interface. It's been given the clean, minimal look shared by most Windows 8 apps, together with large, easily pokable buttons and swipeable columns. The home screen shows your recent activity, a favourites column and the People column for you to access all your Skype contacts.

I found it extremely easy to get to grips with, and the large tiles made using it by touch a delightfully simple process.

It brings the same core functions you'd expect to find on your existing desktop, smart phone or tablet. You sign in, add your contacts and make a call. You can now link it to your Windows account -- something that's crucial for Windows 8 -- meaning you can call contacts from the People app, rather than having to search through a separate contact list in Skype.

Skype has also vastly improved its power management. When you're signed in to the app, but aren't using it, it can now run in the background without taking up any processing power, meaning it won't drain your battery. It still keeps you signed in though, so you can receive calls.

Skype has typically been something of a power hog, hoovering up juice even when it's running in the background. That's not a problem when you're on a dekstop computer plugged into the wall, but it is when you want your tablet to last a full day. Whether the new app will result in much longer battery life remains to be seen when the app goes live.

It also apparently lets you receive calls in the lock screen, although this didn't work during my testing. This is probably due to the security restrictions I have in place that don't allow for updates and notifications to be pushed through when a password hasn't been entered. It would be a pretty big oversight if it allowed a call to be taken without entering a password first -- it doesn't bear thinking about what your contacts could end up seeing if your tablet got stolen.

In terms of call quality, this will still be dependent on the resolution of your webcam (or front-facing camera), and your Internet connection. Earlier in the year, Skype overhauled its infrastructure, switching from using a peer-to-peer based system to servers. While that might not sound fascinating, it means enhanced call security, more stable calls and it allows for your connection to stay open when the app isn't active.

The app will be free in the Windows 8 app store. It's not in there yet, but will be in time for the launch of Windows 8 later this month. It's also coming to Windows Phone 8 in early November, in a very similar form, although Skype wasn't willing to show this off quite yet.

While you're waiting, click through the gallery above to see some screenshots of the new app and let me know your thoughts on Skype and Windows 8 in the comments below or over on our Facebook page.

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Windows 8 allows you to snap two apps together, letting you get on with tasks while on a call.
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You can also open up the instant message box if saying your words aloud doesn't suit.
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Call notifications will appear wherever you are in Windows 8.
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The interface is clean and simple.
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It can link with the People app for calling folks from there, or from your Skype contact list.

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