Microsoft today announced the general availability of Skype for Business. The company promises that organizations currently using Lync 2013 will be updated to Skype for Business and the Lync Online service will be automatically updated to Skype for Business Online.
More specifically, the new Skype for Business client is now rolling out as part of the April monthly update for Office 2013 while Skype for Business Online is rolling out to Office 365 customers worldwide. Office 365 customers using Lync Online will get the new Skype for Business user experience “in the coming weeks,” and Microsoft expects the process to be complete by the end of May.
If this sounds like it’s a little too fast for your business, don’t worry; Microsoft will be offering the ability for administrators to switch between Skype for Business and the traditional Lync user interface. Details on how to switch to Lync mode are available on Microsoft’s TechNet and Office Support pages.
Microsoft Lync, formerly known as Microsoft Office Communicator, uses Microsoft Lync Server, the software infrastructure for enterprise instant messaging, presence, VoIP, conferencing, and so on. Skype for Business builds on all of the capabilities of Lync, including content sharing and telephony. Microsoft says transferring a call now takes only one touch or click instead of three (why this could only be done as part of a rebrand is beyond us).
Because Skype for Business is built right into Office, features like presence, IM, online meetings, and voice and video calls are all integrated into the company’s productivity apps. Skype for Business is essentially Skype with Lync’s enterprise security, compliance, and control features.
Back in November, Microsoft announced it would be replacing its enterprise-focused instant messaging app Lync with a new Skype for Business tool. The company promised Skype for Business would remain an Office 365 service when it launched sometime “in the first half of 2015.”
Now Microsoft has delivered, after releasing a technical preview in March. The company is far from done — Microsoft has already disclosed what’s in the pipeline for the next few months: enterprise voice and new devices for meetings.