Here’s question I’ve received many times: When will Microsoft integrate Skype with its Outlook.com web email platform? Well, this week I’ve got good news to share: It’s happening in preview form, starting today.

As with other similar rollouts, this integration will occur over time, so you probably won’t see Skype integration in Outlook.com immediately. But according to Skype, the preview experience will start rolling out to UK customers beginning today and is coming to the U.S. and Germany in the coming weeks. Worldwide availability is expected this summer.

Here’s what we know.

Skype will replace Messenger in Outlook.com. Messenger, as you know, is being phased out as a standalone service, and the Messenger infrastructure will be used internally by Skype. In today’s Outlook.com version, a Messaging icon in the toolbar opens a Messaging pane that connects solely to Messenger. (And, implicitly, to Facebook Chat through back-end connectivity via Messenger.) With this update, that Messaging interface will be used for Skype. (You can access Messenger and Facebook via Skype, by the way.)

Skype IM, audio and video calls. The integration will allow users to engage in Skype-based instant messaging (IM) and make Skype audio and video calls directly from the Outlook.com web interface.

Requires a plug-in install. Microsoft says that Skype for Outlook.com “requires a one-time download of a plugin for your browser” and works with the most recent versions of Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox.

Requires you to merge your Microsoft account with your Skype account. This is something that Messenger users have already done (or soon will), but you will need to merge your Microsoft account with your Skype account to use this feature. (If you’re using the Skype application for Windows, this means you will log-in with your Microsoft account going forward.)

Skype interfaces integrated in Outlook.com. A short video from Skype (see below) shows a few interfaces that will be familiar to anyone who has used the Outlook email application, with Skype presence indicators and a pop-up menu providing options to use Skype to IM or audio or video chat.

It also provides pop-up, in-browser notifications of Skype calls, much as you see with the Metro-style Skype mobile app (those notifications are not in-browser, of course).

And, video chat occurs in-browser as well, such as when you play a YouTube video from inside Outlook.com.

Integrated with People too. The Outlook.com integration isn’t just for email. You can go into the People interface and trigger Skype IM and audio and video chat directly from any contact card.

Here are some videos that help get a feel for what’s happening.

Make Skype Calls Directly From Your Outlook.com Inbox!

Outlook.com - Now with Skype video calling