Microsoft Enables Skype Group Chats in Office Online

Users of the company's browser-based Office Online Word and PowerPoint services can now host Skype group chats to work together on documents.


Skype is emerging as the connective tissue binding Microsoft's collaborative, cloud-enabled business software ecosystem.

First teased last month, Microsoft has turned on Skype for Office Online, announced Skype Senior Product Marketing Manager Karen Tong in a blog post. "Skype for Office Online makes collaborating a breeze. The chat experience is available right next to the document, enabling you to chat in and edit in real-time with other authors," she wrote.

The feature is available now on Office Online Word and PowerPoint, the Web-based versions of the software giant's productivity software offerings.

Skype for Office Online is Microsoft's latest effort to blend real-time collaboration with document authoring. Last year, the software maker released an Office Web App (Word and Excel) co-authoring feature that delivers edits and user presence information without refreshing the browser window.

The new Skype integration is meant to help users get more work done in Word and PowerPoint and less time checking their inboxes.

"Speed up and simplify document editing with quick Skype group chats instead of long e-mail threads," stated Tong. "Keep track of which co-authors are online as well as messages you might have missed."

Longtime Skype account owners are being encouraged to add their profiles to their Microsoft accounts. "To get the best experience possible on Skype for Office Online, have your Skype account linked to your Microsoft account," said Tong.

Skype, acquired by Microsoft in 2011 for more than $8 billion, is evolving into a major enterprise app after winning over millions of consumers with its voice over IP (VoIP), video calling and text chat capabilities. The mobile-friendly, multiplatform communications software is used by over 300 million people worldwide, according to Microsoft estimates.

Microsoft is tapping the strong brand to represent its unified communications software offering.

"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," announced Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president of Skype, last month. "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," he blogged.

Pall's remarks indicated that the move involves more than a simple rebrand. "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," he said.

Earlier this month, Microsoft finally removed one of the last barriers between full Skype-Lync interoperability by implementing video calling between the two services. "Now Lync users can conduct everyday business and collaboration 'face-to-face' with customers, partners and suppliers who use Skype," said BJ Haberkorn, director of product marketing for Microsoft Lync, in a statement.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...