Microsoft is retooling Skype, and previewing a new desktop experience to small business users who deliver their services over the online communications software.
Many entrepreneurs and owners of small online businesses use Skype to share their expertise, provide instruction, dole out financial advice and extend countless other services over the internet. With built-in video, voice and chat features, not to mention real-time language translation, Microsoft is marketing Skype as an alternative to real world meetings that are costly in time and travel expenses.
Now, Microsoft is formalizing these businesses-client relationships while helping users better track and monetize their interactions over the communications platform with a new desktop client called Skype Professional Account.
Microsoft aims to condense the jumble of software tools and services currently used to manage Skype sessions, including email clients, calendars and payment processors. "From French tutors to yoga instructors, you'll be able to book lessons, accept payments, and give lessons all from one place, seamlessly," boasted Microsoft's bloggers.
"Plus, we've added an enhanced profile page to help improve your online presence and a dedicated website for your small business right in Skype," added Microsoft.
Users can import their existing contacts to their Skype Professional Accounts. Prospective clients, meanwhile, will be able to use Skype's search functionality to search for businesses that fit their needs. Skype Professional Account is available now as a part of a limited preview program and is free, at least until the product is made generally available suggested Microsoft in its Nov. 13 announcement.
In the meantime, the Skype ecosystem is undergoing some major changes.
In September, during the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Fla., the software maker announced that Skype for Business (formerly Lync) will soon be replaced by Teams. Part of the Office 365 productivity suite for businesses, and Microsoft's answer to Slack and other modern chat-based group collaboration tools, Teams will inherit many the virtual meetings, teleconferencing and voice communications capabilities currently available in the IT-friendly and business-focused version of Skype.
On Nov. 6, Microsoft announced it had acquired the technology and talent behind the SWNG app for iOS. The SWNG team, responsible for the app's "living photos" feature, is joining the Skype group at Microsoft and are tasked with incorporating their image-enhancing technologies into Skype's messaging and calling capabilities.
Other online business communications vendors have also been making waves lately.
In October, computer networking giant Cisco Systems announced a planned acquisition of BroadSoft for $1.9 billion. BroadSoft is a cloud-based unified communications and collaboration company focused on small and midsized businesses. Cisco and BroadSoft expect to seal the deal in the first quarter of 2018.