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Skype for Windows Phone 8.1 gets native voice call transfers and Cortana integration

Amid all the Build 2014 excitement on Wednesday about the new Start menu, Windows Phones, and universal Windows apps, Microsoft-owned Skype also announced some upgrades for Windows Phone users.

Very soon, Skype will make the phrase "I'll call you back on Skype," a thing of the past for Windows Phone fans. The popular messaging platform will also get some nice Cortana integration.

Here are the details.

Upgrade your phone call

The standard dialer in Windows Phone 8.1 will include a Skype button that lets you automatically switch your phone call to a data-based Skype video call. To work, however, anyone you're calling will have to be in your contacts list and you'll need to have their Skype username.

Skype says this feature is available now in preview form in the current Skype app available from the Windows Phone Store. 

Cortana

Microsoft's new virtual assistant for Windows Phone will also have Skype integration that will make initiating a Skype call a one-click affair. With the Cortana assistant open, all you have to say is "Skype, video call with so-and-so" or "Skype, get so-and-so on video" and Cortana will open Skype and start the call for you.

While not a must-have feature, deep integration with Skype calling could turn out to be very handy. It also beats Siri, Google Now, and Dragon, all of which can only open the Skype app for you, without initiating a call. Skype's Cortana integration is set to land on Windows Phone 8.1 in the coming months.

Skype also took a moment to tell Windows PC users that with the coming Windows 8.1 Update you will be able to pin the modern UI version of Skype to the taskbar.

"Skype for Windows Modern is built for touch devices," Skype said in a recent blog post. "But we know that many users use 2-in-1 devices and often work in the desktop mode, switching between modern and desktop apps. We wanted to make that easier."

That's nice and all, but if Skype really wanted to make life easier for Windows 8.1 users, it would figure out how to automatically stop the modern UI version of Skype from ringing once I pick up the call on Skype's actual desktop app.

This article has been updated to remove the line "Skype will come preinstalled in Windows Phone 8.1, a first for Microsoft's mobile OS." A Microsoft PR representative says "We are not able to confirm that Skype will come preinstalled in Windows Phone 8.1 at this time."

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