How Microsoft Is Transforming Skype Into a Major Enterprise App

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2014-11-17
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    How Microsoft Is Transforming Skype Into a Major Enterprise App
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    How Microsoft Is Transforming Skype Into a Major Enterprise App

    By Don Reisinger
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    Skype Is a Core Component in Office 365
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    Skype Is a Core Component in Office 365

    Office 365 users know well that Skype plays an integral role in the experience of using the cloud-based solution. Microsoft allows Office 365 users to integrate the full suite of Skype features. In addition, Microsoft gives Office 365 users 60 minutes per month to make calls for free. Those calls can be placed to more than 60 destinations around the world.
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    Lync Will Get Merged Into Skype for Business
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    Lync Will Get Merged Into Skype for Business

    Microsoft announced that starting in 2015 it will phase out Lync. Instead, the company has decided to call the next update Skype for Business, essentially ending Lync's life as a stand-alone app and adding some of its best features to Skype. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it forces current corporate customers using Lync to migrate to Skype whether they want to or not.
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    Skype.com Is Now Actually Useful
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    Skype.com Is Now Actually Useful

    In addition to being a downloadable application, Skype is now becoming useful in the browser. Microsoft announced recently that Skype will work across all browsers, allowing users to place calls and message each other without ever opening their application. It's not necessarily a groundbreaking achievement in the grand scheme of things, but it's an important step as Microsoft tries to make Skype more cloud-friendly and, thus, more enterprise-friendly.
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    It's Not Just About VoIP
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    It's Not Just About VoIP

    VOIP might be the main reason Skype is so popular, but it's really not the factor that is most interesting to Microsoft. The company is pitching Skype not only as a tool for businesses to use when they want to hold video conference calls, but also as an office instant messaging tool for employees. And yes, if companies want to place cheap calls over the Web, Skype can handle that, too.
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    There Is IT Control
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    There Is IT Control

    Skype has a Manager tool that allows IT staffs to determine how the software can be used across the enterprise. So, for example, if a company buys Skype credits that allow employees to place calls, the IT staff can determine how those credits are doled out to employees. The feature can also dictate what features employees have access to.
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    There's a Customer-Facing Component to All This
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    There's a Customer-Facing Component to All This

    Although corporate concerns with solutions tend to take a more inward focus, it's important to point out that Microsoft is focusing heavily on the external value of Skype in its corporate pitches. The company provides tools for corporate customers to use when they want to place Skype buttons on their site. Microsoft sees the feature as a useful customer service tool, allowing customers and companies to quickly get in touch. Whether it's actually being used in that way is unknown.
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    Is Skype WiFi the Unknown Killer App?
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    Is Skype WiFi the Unknown Killer App?

    It doesn't get much attention, but Microsoft has expanded Skype WiFi in dramatic fashion. As of this writing, there are 2 million WiFi hotspots worldwide that Skype users can connect to and get on the Web. The minutes used are paid through Skype credits. Microsoft explicitly mentions the feature on its corporate Skype page, indicating that the company believes it's a killer app for companies.
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    It's Multiplatform and That Fits Into the CEO's Strategy
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    It's Multiplatform and That Fits Into the CEO's Strategy

    One of the main edicts sent down by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is that the company's software and solutions will be platform-agnostic. Nadella believes that the future is in the cloud, and allowing customers to use Skype from any platform will only expand its user base and enable it to grow under the changing market dynamics. It's a move that will ensure Skype's continued growth both in the consumer and enterprise markets in years to come.
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    Skype Has Consumer as Well as Enterprise Appeal
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    Skype Has Consumer as Well as Enterprise Appeal

    One of the crucial sales pitches Microsoft can make to enterprise customers is that Skype ably walks the line between consumer and enterprise appeal. On one hand, the service can be used by consumers who want to stay in touch with friends and family, while on the other, it can be used as a worthwhile corporate tool.
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    Microsoft Is Pitching Skype as a Productivity Tool
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    Microsoft Is Pitching Skype as a Productivity Tool

    In a blog post recently, Microsoft made it abundantly clear that it believes Skype can be a core component in any company's desire to expand the productivity of its employees. Microsoft believes that Skype helps users communicate more effectively and efficiently and ultimately improve productivity. That's a buzzword corporate customers love to hear, and it's something Microsoft will likely hammer home in the coming months.
 

Since it acquired Skype in May 2011, Microsoft has been steadily repositioning the voice over IP service—which started out as a free way for users to place voice calls over the Internet—as a communication service for enterprises. Microsoft has expanded Skype's features as it continues to expand the number of subscribers. Today Skype is arguably the gold standard for VoIP. While Skype is still serving individual subscribers, the platform has slowly but surely become an important component in Microsoft's broader enterprise applications strategy. Microsoft recently announced that it will merge its Lync instant messaging app with Skype for Business in 2015. Then it will integrate Skype with the Office 365 cloud productivity suite. All of these moves help make Skype a solid communications platform for corporate customers. This slide show looks at how the various moves by Microsoft has turned what started as low-cost alternative to long-distance telephone networks for making phone calls and video conferences around the world into a major part of the enterprise application portfolio.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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