Unified Communications

Microsoft Educates ITEXPO Attendees on Skype for Business

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  December 22, 2015

Microsoft stirred up a lot of excitement a while back when it purchased online meeting company Skype (News - Alert), and surprised a lot of people a little later when it changed the name of Lync to Skype for Business. At the recent ITEXPO, Microsoft’s (News - Alert) Skip Chilcott explained why the company made those moves, what they mean for customers, how it continues to improve the offering, and some of its key partners that can help ensure its customers’ Skype for Business implementations are a success.

Skype for Business, he said, brings together the familiar look and feel of Skype, and the enterprise features of Lync. With this offering, he added, the company is redefining communications by offering via a single interface a cornucopia of communications modalities, including chat, meetings, video, voice, and more.

“The biggest change is the user interface is simplified,” he said, suggesting that Lync users required better ease of use so they could more fully take advantage of all the product’s features.

There are 100 million Skype for Business users worldwide today, he added, and 79 percent of all enterprises recently surveyed said they either have or will deploy Skype for Business.

“These are pretty stunning numbers,” he commented.

Microsoft continues to expand on Skype for Business. For example, the company has a new offering called Skype Meeting Broadcast, a one-way broadcast service that can support tens of thousands of participants and beyond. Also new from Microsoft is PSTN Conferencing, which allows people to use a dial in number to join a Skype meeting from any device. You can check out what’s new with Skype for Business at www.skypepreview.com.

Speaking of any device, customers can also use their smartphones and endpoints like the Microsoft Surface Hub, a large wall-mountable conferencing device the company developed along with Polycom (News - Alert), to enjoy Skype for Business.

Chilcott also noted during his presentation that there are now more than 1 billion users of the consumer Skype service, with 350 million unique users every 30 days. That’s meaningful in this business context, he said, because Skype for Business users can connect to those consumer users of Skype, which already have filled out their profiles.

“It’s a pretty fantastic experience,” he said. But he also emphasized that Skype and Skype for Business are two separate services for which the Skype name is the only common component.

Microsoft also emphasized the important role service providers and systems integrators play in Skype for Business. To the first point, companies including AT&T (News - Alert) and Verizon offer ExpressRoute service that offers quality of service for Skype for Business. It’s available today in Azure and coming soon to Office 365. SIs are also a centerpiece of Skype for Business implementations. They bring the end-to-end solutions together, he said, and work with customers to make sure their implementations are successful.

“We’re really almost insisting that customers work with system integrators,” said Chilcott.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere