Most of the digital world uses Skype and certainly my two little digital natives take it for granted that they can chat with their friends while they play computer games with them. Even if the friends are on holidays in Europe this week. Or live in a different city.
For those of us brought up in an era where an STD phone call from Melbourne to Sydney was an expensive thing to do and was not to be taken lightly, this is a bit of a big step to get used to. Does that make me sound as old as I feel?
As I have discussed in previous articles, Microsoft has become the largest carrier of international voice calls since it acquired Skype. It now wants to re-invent how collaboration and communication is done in business by connecting people via verbal, written, visual and emotional devices.
These tools have existed in separate tools for a while. Instant messaging took off in 2005 a decade ago. Video telephony has been around for a while at the top end of town and of course we have had Skype since its origins in 2003.
Now in the next few weeks we will see the release of the latest Microsoft Business communications platform which has now taken on the Skype branding with the name Skype for Business.
In the preview of the tool, we are seeing the features of Lync that we are all familiar with:
- Presence – letting us see who is available and who is offline briefly or completely, this makes it easy to connect with people when they are available saving all those wasted calls to empty desks.
- Instant Messaging (IM) – for a quick nonverbal informal conversation with an individual or a group.
- Federation – allowing us to include members of other companies in our address lists for presence and quick connections, brilliant for improved communications with clients and suppliers.
- Desktop sharing – for instant collaboration and technical support on any application.
- Outbound calling – the ability to make phone calls to traditional phone systems via the Skype interface
- Voice calls over IP networks (VoIP) – of course
- Video Calls – well that’s what we all love about Skype.
- Call recording – nice to know you don’t need a special tool for that…
So what is new with Skype for Business?
The Skype user interface brings a level of familiarity to an enterprise-grade tool with enterprise-grade performance.
From our Office Skype client we can now call anyone with a Skype ID, making it more useful for business to consumer communication one to one or one to many via a broadcast.
Skype for Business will offer connections to standard phone lines (PSTN) so from our Skype interface we can call anyone.
Skype Room Systems will offer roundtable cameras with desktop audio systems to create connected meeting rooms globally at a price that small business can afford.
The global smart network provided by Microsoft will offer high speed connections and cloud Skype for full functionality with minimal hardware on site.
Through Telstra, Microsoft will connect us to data centres in 37 countries.
Hosted Skype for business – the new platform is ready to offer a cloud version over the next year.
That means we can have all the features of an expensive installed PABX and Skype but we can have it in the cloud. Nothing to build or buy, just pay for what we use.
Microsoft is now designing all of its products around integration with Skype for Business with a view to unifying its communication stack and building its global communications network.
This week we have seen Office 365 hosted in Australia made available to the general business community. This is just part of Microsoft’s commitment to meeting its clients need for data sovereignty and security.
There is plenty more that can be said about that but we need to leave it for another article. Suffice to say, Microsoft have taken our data sovereignty very seriously to ensure they meet the legal requirements of our largest business and government clients and have made the investment to make their technology available. This local presence will be very important in the days ahead for Skype for Business and its collaboration tool set.
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that is known for Business IT that makes sense. How can we help?