Nine months ago, Microsoft announced an $8.5-billion bid to buy Skype, the provider of voice-over-Internet Protocol software and services. The move promised to add an important video chat feature to help handsets running the Windows Phone operating system better compete with FaceTime on the iPhone and Android's Google Talk feature.
But when the move would actually happen has been something of a mystery. At January's Consumer Electronics Show Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer barely even mentioned Skype during his keynote.
Now we know that the wait is almost over. Microsoft just released a test version of its new Skype for Windows Phone app. The free app lets you call Skype contacts over 3G, 4G and wi-fi networks.
Of course, as with all software test versions, there's no doubt room for improvement. For example, Skype for Windows is now available only in English. And you can't receive calls unless the app is open and running on your phone. It's likely, though, that most issues will be worked out by April, when the market version of the app should be ready to say hello.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]