MICROSOFT HAS ANNOUNCED THAT, in the not-too-distant future, Skype for Business will be replaced by Microsoft Teams.
It is an extension of Office 365 Groups, pulling in various Microsoft apps like Word, PowerPoint and Skype with subject-threaded chat and plug-ins for third-party tools like Twitter.
Teams already shares features like instant messaging and file sharing with Skype, but will now integrate other capabilities like connectivity to phone networks, bringing features like voicemail, conference calls and call transfers. This will be based on the Skype infrastructure, which already powers audio and video comms in the application.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning and speech recognition are being used to improve meeting experiences, making it easier to arrange them and receive follow-up notifications.
Microsoft did not provide a timetable for the move, but analysts expect it to be complete by 2020. Customers who aren't ready to migrate will be pleased to hear that Microsoft will launch a new Skype for Business Server next year (there has been some speculation about the on-prem platform's future), but the company is going to encourage Office 365 users to move to Teams.
Gartner's Ben Elliot had a word of warning, saying: "It's not certain what will be available when - especially when it comes to some of the functions like telephony. Companies that had a plan to do [Skype for Business] telephony online should review their plans in light of the uncertainty."
On the other side of the fence Scott Riley, CSO at Microsoft partner GCI (responsible for many Skype for Business deployments) was optimistic about the move. In a statement, he said that the decision is "a bold move" and emphasised that Skype was not being killed off:
"Microsoft has recognised the simple fact that the majority of organisations in the UK (and indeed our customers) are some way in between the 'old world' of on-premise environments and the 'new world' of the cloud. They're transitioning, and most are running hybrid environments. The announcements today recognise choice."
The increased emphasis on Teams, which was launched as a Slack competitor, will bring Microsoft even further into competition with the market leader. µ
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