Following Outlook.com's recent Skype integration, Microsoft is turning its integration focus to Google services today. Google Talk, an instant messaging service for text and audio, is being integrated directly into Outlook.com, Microsoft's refreshed webmail service. The surprising move comes just days before Google is rumored to be rounding up its Google Talk and Hangouts services into a unified "Babel" service.

Google Talk support just ahead of rumored Babel service

Microsoft heard from Outlook.com users that they wanted to chat to their contacts using Google Talk, so the company utilized Google's APIs to build the support. At the moment it will only work with text chat, as video and audio chat is not supported. "If it turns out a lot of people want the voice and video with Google, that's certainly something we'll go talk to them about," explains Dharmesh Mehta, senior director of Outlook.com. The integration works as soon as you connect a Google account to Outlook.com, letting users chat in the sidebar.

Discussing the recent completion of the Hotmail to Outlook.com upgrade, Mehta explained it was a rather sudden change for some. "For the average Hotmail customer, this was a pretty big change relative to things you normally experience." Aside from that, it has been successful for the team involved in migrating millions of accounts. "This went better than any migration I've seen in my history," says Mehta.

Still no commitment to IMAP support

So what's next? Now the migration is complete, Outlook.com users should expect an increased pace of updates. Back in August, Microsoft's Outlook.com team hinted at IMAP support and a possible Mac client. Mehta says the Outlook.com team is still figuring out how it plans to better support Mac users with clients that support Outlook.com. "It's a pretty diverse space in terms of trying to do it well," explains Mehta, detailing the challenges of opening up a protocol or making Outlook.com more desirable to third-party app developers that traditionally favor Gmail's IMAP support over Microsoft's alternative. "We absolutely do hear that there's a set of users that today either have to default to POP or a pure web experience in a set of places that there's richer options," reveals Mehta. "We're absolutely listening to that and thinking about where and in what ways we need to go expand."