Skype for Business will arrive in mid-April as an update to Lync, Microsoft's enterprise communications software platform, the company announced April 1. Microsoft first revealed that Skype for Business would replace Lync back in November, a culmination of a two-year effort to bridge its consumer and corporate communications products.
"In the first half of 2015, the next version of Lync will become Skype for Business with a new client experience, new server release, and updates to the service in Office 365," promised Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president of Skype, in a statement at the time. "We believe that Skype for Business will again transform the way people communicate by giving organizations reach to hundreds of millions of Skype users outside the walls of their business."
Now that vision is days away from reality.
"Skype for Business will roll out as an update to Lync on April 14th as part of Office monthly updates," announced the Skype for Business team in an April 1 statement. As expected, Skype's familiar visuals form the basis of the new software's user interface, at least in the cloud version.
"If you are using Lync Online today with Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 Business Premium or Office 2013, the updated Skype for Business client—inspired by the look and feel of Skype—will be the default user experience and replace the Lync user experience," added the company.
On-premises Lync customers can continue using their current deployments, for now. "If you are using Lync Server today, the Lync UI will be the default experience," informed Microsoft.
"The new Skype for Business client for Windows has all the capabilities of Lync for users and for admins but we changed the user interface—it's really the best of Skype and Lync," said BJ Haberkorn, director of Skype for Business, in an April 1 Office Mechanics video published by Microsoft. "We're taking advantage of the familiarity of hundreds of millions of people who use Skype every month to make Skype for Business really easy to adopt."
During a demonstration of the software, Haberkorn showed how during a video call, the Skype for Business interface was practically indistinguishable from its consumer-grade counterpart. Much of the advanced Lync functionality, like desktop sharing and PowerPoint uploads, is tucked away in the sharing and presenting icon just below the main video conference window. Call controls have also been integrated into the main window for users who rely on Lync for all their voice calling needs.
Acknowledging that not all customers are ready to make the switch, Microsoft is offering them the option to keep their old setups. "The good news is that regardless of whether you are using Lync Online or Lync Server, you have the ability to control when the updated experience is rolled out to your users," stated Microsoft. Administrators can use the new controls in Office 365 ProPlus and Office 2013 to set the pace of updates or employ the PowerShell policy settings detailed in this blog post.