With Windows 8.1 now available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers, Microsoft today also launched a pre-release version of Skype for Windows 8.1. The new version makes sense given that Skype will be bundled with Windows 8.1.

So, what’s new? As Microsoft puts it, the first-ever, fully integrated version of Skype ensures “you’ll never miss a message.”

blue pre release lockscreen Microsoft launches Skype pre release for Windows 8.1, lets you answer calls from the lock and Start screens

In addition to being able to view your missed calls and instant messages, Skype for Windows 8.1 lets you answer calls directly from your lock screen. Furthermore, you can do the same on the Start screen, plus you can also choose how to respond: a video call, an audio call, or decline and send an IM instead.

Next up, not only can you call anyone from your People app and pinned favorites, but Skype for Windows 8.1 lets you click-to-call directly through Internet Explorer. Here’s that experience in action:

iedefaultforcall Microsoft launches Skype pre release for Windows 8.1, lets you answer calls from the lock and Start screens

Last but certainly not least, Skype for Windows 8.1 includes app-to-app launching. In short, this means Skype will automatically move to the side when you click on a link or shared item for easier multitasking.

You can also snap Skype and adjust the size of the window. For those that spend a lot of time in Skype, these enhancements will be very welcome.

side by side view Microsoft launches Skype pre release for Windows 8.1, lets you answer calls from the lock and Start screens

For now though, these three features still aren’t available for everyone. Windows 8.1 isn’t out yet and this update is, after all, marked as a pre-release.

Microsoft didn’t share when it plans to officially release Skype for Windows 8.1. We presume, however, that it will be ready in time for when the free operating system update starts rolling out. The timing will be perfect for anyone buying new Windows devices in time for the holiday.

See also – Skype for Windows Phone 8 gets a people list filter and new homescreen layout and Microsoft completes Lync integration into Skype, offers one unified communications platform for Windows and Mac

Top Image Credit: Robert Scoble