Microsoft wants Skype to be more than just a chat app. The company unveiled a significant Skype update that will turn it into a platform for interacting with other apps, similar to what Facebook has done with its Messenger app.
This new version will allow Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana and third-party apps to integrate with Skype. Microsoft is touting the ability to plan trips, shop, and book a hotel all within the Skype app by interacting with virtual bots.
“We want all of these conversational tools to become rich canvases for computation,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said on stage at the company’s Build conference to preface the announcement.
Cortana acts as the intermediary between the Skype user and these bots. For example, a notification from Cortana may appear within the Skype app to ask whether or not you want to share your location with a food delivery service bot. Cortana will also remember some of your preferences and take those aspects into account. For instance, if you have preferred status with the Westin hotel chain, Cortana will start a conversation with the Westin bot when planning a trip.
App makers will be able to start using the Skype bot software development kit starting on Wednesday. Microsoft is also launching a platform called the Bot Framework that will allow developers to create bots that can integrate with various types of communication services, like Slack and email.
It’s another sign that tech companies are moving away from apps and toward communication services in order to connect consumers with services. Facebook made a similar announcement at its own conference last year, and has integrated services like Uber into its Messenger app.