Skype is introducing a new version of its telecommunications app geared toward online tutors and small businesses.
Known as the Skype Professional Account, the new service will initially only be available on desktop and will be landing shortly in preview for U.S. users, who can apply for early access now.
The new Skype incarnation isn’t to be confused with the existing Skype for Business offering that promises enterprise-focused features such as support for 250 people in a single meeting, online broadcasting, presentation tools, and deep integration with Microsoft’s Office apps. The Skype Professional Account, by contrast, ushers in a bunch of new features aimed at those who make money through the internet, such as career coaches or those who give guitar lessons remotely.
Skype Professional is designed to save service providers from having to use different online services to manage their business. So rather than working from an email app to organize a Skype session, a calendar to manage a schedule, a notes app to keep records, and a separate app to manage payments, users can take care of everything through Skype itself.
A few months back, Skype announced a new Send Money feature, in conjunction with PayPal, that allows users to transfer cash without leaving Skype. However, the “send payments” function is only available through the Skype mobile apps at present. Many customers may prefer to use the Skype desktop client when learning yoga, for example, so it looks like they would have to switch to the mobile Skype app to pay for the class.
Interestingly, Skype is also providing an “enhanced profile page” and website inside Skype for businesses to promote themselves. This page will include details about the company, such as operating hours and services offered. Additionally, customers will be able to find service providers directly from the main search field in the normal Skype app — so “ukulele instructor” may show up alongside “Uncle Jim.” This is a notable move for Skype, as it continues its evolution into a sort of cross between Facebook and Google (in terms of how it’s looking to connect customers with small businesses).
In the longer-term, Skype will likely charge Professional users for the privilege of using the turbocharged app, but during its early-stage preview it will be completely free to use.