What To Expect From Skype For Business

Back in November, Microsoft announced that Lync would become Skype for Business, and that it would come with a new client experience, new server release, and updates in Office 365. While Lync already gave users instant messaging and Skype audio calling, the new offering would add video calling and the Skype user directory, so you can call any Skype user from any device. Microsoft is now talking about the next steps in the transition.

Earlier this week, the company unveiled a technical preview of the Skype for Business client, so businesses can start trying it out and preparing for potential deployment. The Skype for Business client, Skype for Business Server, and the new service in Office 365 will all start rolling out next month. Here’s a look at Microsoft’s “vision for the future” of Skype for Business:

Skype for Business combines the Skype interface with an expanded set of Lync features. You can video call anyone with a Skype ID, and productivity tools like email, calendar, and document collaboration are integrated.

“We will offer enterprise voice and audio conferencing in Office 365, starting with a technical preview in the U.S. this summer, as well as enterprise-grade PSTN connectivity, beginning in the U.S. later this year, followed by a global roll out,” says Zig Serafin, corporate vice president for the Skype for Business team. “This means Office 365 can be used for all your conversations—written, audio and video. The Office 365 Skype for Business voice and video services are based on an intelligent real time network, spanning Microsoft’s global datacenters, to deliver secure, high quality voice and video traffic at the speed of light across the globe. Our strategic partners AT&T, BT, Colt, Equinix, Level 3 Communications, Orange Business Services, TATA Communications, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone, will deliver direct connections to Office 365 Skype for Business customers through Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365. These investments will benefit our on-premises customers as well as those using our cloud. We are enabling cloud plus on-premises hybrid options so that you can rely on our cloud when you need it without having to give up what you want to manage on-premises.”

The company also announced Skype Room Systems, which utilises a series of devices Microsoft has partnered with Polycom for. The two companies announced an expanded relationship, which will see Polycom solutions built for Skype for Business. These come under the banner “Polycom Roundtable”. The first device is the RoundTable 100.

You can find more about the partnership and additional solutions on the horizon here.

“With Skype Room Systems, you can bring your meeting rooms into the digital world, helping your ideas move fluidly and letting remote participants feel engaged in the conversation,” Microsoft says. “Our solutions are designed for doing great things together, all within a consistent Skype experience.”

Microsoft also has a new large-screen device called Surface Hub, which is designed specifically for Skype for Business.

“It delivers digital white boarding based on OneNote, the ability for multiple people to share and edit content to the screen from any device, and support for Windows 10 apps, all which help make meetings more engaging and productive,” explains Serafin.

According to Microsoft, 79% of enterprises in the U.S. are currently using or planning to deploy Lync for telephony, and Skype sees 50 billion minutes of traffic per month. Over 50% of Skype users are using video.