Microsoft is announcing the general availability of its new Skype for Business client, which is being released as part of the April monthly update for Office 2013. Skype for Business Online is also rolling out to global Office 365 customers, an automatic process that is expected to be complete by the end of May 2015.
We first learned about the impending reinvention of Skype in November 2014, when Microsoft announced that the next version of its Lync platform would become Skype for Business. It promised a new client experience, new server release and updates to its Office 365 service. The idea was to give businesses the ability to connect with more Skype users outside their enterprise network.
The new business platform is based on Skype, which more than 300 million people currently use to communicate. The business iteration does allow customers to search for, and connect with, anyone on the Skype network, whether they're inside or outside their organization. Most hardware and software solutions that are compatible with Office 2013 can also handle Skype for Business.
Skype for business is built into Office, so features like IM, voice and video calls, presence, and online meetings are all now integrated Office components. The new platform will also add to the features currently available on Lync and deliver enterprise-grade security, compliance and control to IT.
Current users of Lync Online within Office 365 will receive the new Skype for Business user experience in coming weeks. Microsoft is offering the ability for administrators to switch between Skype for Business and the traditional Lync user interface, in an effort to accommodate customers who need more time to prepare.
The launch of Skype for Business aligns closely with the theme of Microsoft's 2015 Convergence conference. At this year's event, CEO Satya Nadella focused on the core theme of building "systems of intelligence" and empowering individuals, businesses and industries with new technologies.
As part of his keynote speech, Nadella acknowledged that companies should leverage collaborative tools that enable them to share more information. Convergence was the site of announcements like the Skype for Business technical preview and updates to Office Delve.
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