Skype for Business has officially launched on schedule and nearly a month after Microsoft released the technical preview to Lync's successor.
In an April 14 announcement, Microsoft's Skype for Business Team revealed that "the new Skype for Business client is now rolling out as part of the April monthly update for Office 2013." The software sports a revised user interface that blends Skype's signature look with Lync's advanced, business-oriented calling, messaging and video conferencing capabilities.
"In addition, Skype for Business Online is now rolling out to Office 365 customers worldwide, and we expect the rollout to be complete by the end of May," stated Microsoft.
The Skype for Business rollout completes a two-year effort to integrate Skype and Lync, transforming the former into a major enterprise application. The project began in earnest in early 2013, when the company announced plans to enable calls and text chats between Lync users and Skype's big user base that same summer. According to Microsoft, more than 300 million people use Skype each month to chat or conduct voice and video calls.
"By bringing the assets that we have on the consumer front with Skype and on the enterprise front with Lync, we can have a unified platform that really brings communications from the living room to the boardroom in a way that makes sense and is rationalized and connected rather than having disconnected islands," Microsoft General Manager Giovanni Mezgec told eWEEK at the time.
Now, two years later, Lync customers can experience the results.
Skype for Business "is built right into Office, so features like presence, IM, voice and video calls, and online meetings are an integrated part of the Office experience," enabling users to make and accept calls while they conduct work in the company's productivity suite. "And with Skype for Business, you can search for and connect with anyone in the Skype network—inside or outside your organization," Microsoft added, highlighting the massive expansion of potential contacts that the integration permits.
"If you currently use Lync Online in Office 365, the new Skype for Business user experience will appear for you in the coming weeks," said Microsoft. However, administrators can bide their time before implementing the switch for their users. "For customers that need a little more time to prepare for Skype for Business, we have provided the ability for administrators to switch between Skype for Business and the traditional Lync user interface."
Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011 for a whopping $8.5 billion. Since then, the popular voice over IP (VOIP) and video calling platform has been widely integrated into the company's expansive software ecosystem. Skype is also symbolic of the company's multi-platform product strategy that embraces rival mobile platforms.
Apart from Windows PCs and devices, Skype apps are available for iOS and Android tablets. Users can also access their accounts with a browser-based version of the app, which is available via Skype.com and Outlook.com, Microsoft's webmail service.