Microsoft purchased Skype back in May of 2011, but has been rather slow to integrate the communication service into its software. That, however, is beginning to change. For instance, the latest version of Office, 365 Home Premium, comes with 60-minutes of Skype credit and the there is a Modern-UI version available for Windows 8 (its built into 8.1), as well as Xbox Kinect integration, that will likely grow when the Xbox One finds its way to market later this year.

The latest Microsoft property to get the Skype treatment is Outlook.com — the web-based email client that recently replaced Hotmail, regardless if customers wanted it to or not.

The web-based version of the Outlook app produced by the software giant, and trading off of the name of its desktop-based brother, is a much cleaner and sleeker email than Hotmail or, for that matter, Gmail. It has a built-in calendar app and SkyDrive cloud storage integration.

While other Outlook.com features can be accessed from a drop-down menu at the top of the page, Skype is a bit more hidden, and there are some tricks to it.

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It seems as if everyone is rushing to switch to streaming music, replacing owning the songs and albums with the idea of renting them instead. The concept has many advantages, including the ability to listen to pretty much any song at any time, providining we keep making that small monthly payment. Plus, the old need for those huge CD racks is a thing of the past.

There are also a number of free sources from which you can pull your tunes — YouTube is a surprisingly good location to find music, some of it quite obscure, and there is the oft-maligned Grooveshark, which soldiers on in the face of near-constant threats from the record industry. Spotify too, allows for a free account, though you must hand over the cash if you want unlimited ad-free or the ability to use it on a mobile device.

You get the point — there are a number of places to get music, and sometimes what one does not have a song another will. That is great in one sense of course, but it also means you could be wasting a bit of time searching around. A service called OnePlaylist aims to change this, by letting you pull from these different sources to create a jukebox of your very own. (more…)

Music may have been around since the dawn of time, when our ancestors were banging sticks together, but it took Napster breaking all of the rules to make music big on the internet. Since then, services have been appearing left and right, all promising to give you the moon…or at least any song you wish to hear. The RIAA may not yet be fully comfortable with all of this, but technology moves forward and the recording industry, despite its best efforts, cannot stop the future from happening.

But, along the way, we’ve lost a lot of the freedom in finding new music, and somehow YouTube — a video site — has become the best place to find music for free. There’s tons of great music focused services today, from Pandora and Google Play All Access to Xbox Music and iTunes, but none are free. Even the old fashioned radio was better than this, if you simply wanted to find new music for free.

That’s exactly why you need to check out Earbits.

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Microsoft pulled Xbox Music from the ashes of the failed Zune platform — a great MP3 Player and iTunes-like service that never caught a toehold with the community. Now, the company seeks to compete with the likes of major players such as Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and more by making its music service available to a wider range of audience with the introduction of one more platform for your listening pleasure — in this case the web.

In the past, the service has been shackled to Microsoft-centric devices like Windows Phone and Surface tablets, but now it reaches critical mass with the introduction of a web-based version of the of the music app. (more…)

Recently, Google rolled out All Access to its year old Google Music service. But with so many streaming music services out there, should music lovers even care? Actually, they should. In fact, perhaps they should rejoice!

Having used the service since inception, I am now convinced that the search giant may just have found a way to steal this industry as well. Those are big words, given that the likes of iTunes, Pandora and Spotify would like to compete for your dollars in a fair market battle. But Google Music is great, and All Access just turns it up to 11.

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One of the largest barriers facing small business and freelancers is keeping track of invoicing, receipts, payroll and general accounting. This can be a problem because of the expense of the software and/or accounting firm. If you’re just getting started, you won’t want to invest in an expensive (and often outdated-looking) accounting suite, and Excel for data and Word for invoices will only go so far.

Now, along comes a service called Wave Apps – well, really it is just called Wave, but it is a collection of apps. The five services are designed to make life easier for the small business owner or freelancer. (more…)

When Google announced it would be shutting down its Reader service on July 1 of this year, it left many customers of the popular RSS service feeling stranded. Many of the most popular alternatives, such as Feedly and The Old Reader, have had to beef up server capacity and bandwidth.

Meanwhile, other company’s, such as Digg, are planning their own upstarts to fill the void. In the meantime, customers have some time to experiment with various services and decide on which they wish to land. One of the newest is CommaFeed, which aims to be a complete alternative to Google Reader, but can also do a whole lot more in addition to being a simple web app. (more…)

At the risk of dating myself, I must confess I grew up playing Atari 2600 — Asteroids, Centipede, Space Invaders, Breakout — I had them all. Sadly, when Nintendo debuted I packed up my trusty Atari console, along with all of its games, and marched them down the street where they were greeted by a younger boy in the neighborhood.

I sorely wish I had saved both the console and the cartridges, but what is past can not be undone. Time and game consoles continue to move forward… well, sort of.

You see, those old gaming classics never really died. They just sort of went into hiding for a few decades, only to re-emerge in all of their 1980′s glory, ready for a new generation of gamers to tackle the process of getting Pitfall Harry past his obstacles.

Over the years a number of ways to play the old classics have emerged, but Atari themselves has recognized the value in nostalgia and done something to capitalize on that feeling. (more…)

Over the years, AppStorm has reviewed a number of writing tools. For writers, these apps can have special meaning, as many of us earn our livings by using these apps. A good web-based word editor can be indispensable in daily life, both for us and for many of our readers as well.

Whenever I stumble upon a new one I can not help but try it out. So was the case recently when I happened upon WriteApp, which bills itself as a “distraction-free editor”. It boasts support for markdown, live preview, public notes, post by email, and much more. Plus it is free to use, though you need to register for an account. It was something I knew I’d have to check out. (more…)

Everyone that used to love Google Reader is having to quickly search for a new RSS reader, now that Google Reader’s getting shut down. Many users seem to be headed for Feedly, while some, like our own Mathew Guay, have opted to set up their own servers with Fever, and a few are heading for The Old Reader. All of these services have been under duress since the announcement, feverishly adding bandwidth and servers in an effort to keep pace with their new-found popularity.

Me? I honestly think I am leaning towards startup Feedspot. I have tried both Feedly and The Old Reader. Both are nice, but I can not say much beyond that. Feedspot, on the other hand, may be the app that hits the spot for me. (more…)

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