It's been well signposted, but Microsoft has finally rolled out Skype for Business. It was first mentioned in November 2014 and a technical preview was released in March — but the full experience arrived on April 14, as part of the monthly Office update.
As expected, Skype For Business is replacing Lync, Microsoft's previous enterprise video chat tool. The new tool features Skype's recognizable design but also incorporates some Lync functionality, like online meetings and enhanced security.
Skype for Business is essentially Skype but with Lync's enterprise security, compliance and control features. Most hardware and software solutions that are compatible with Office 2013 can also handle Skype for Business.
Microsoft Office users will now have Skype built into their software, allowing them access to instant messenger, voice and video calls from within Office applications. It allows calls to anyone in the Skype network.
"Skype for Business is based on the familiar Skype experience that more than 300 million people use every month to connect with friends and family," Microsoft said in a statement.
The rollout of Skype for Business is expected to be completed for all users by the end of May. To allow people to get used to the change, administrators can switch between the old Lync system and Skype for Business.
Microsoft is also planning to release enterprise voice and new meeting devices later this year. The company has partnered with AT&T, BT, Colt, Equinix, Level3 Communications, Orange Business Services, Tata Communications, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone. These companies will help deliver direct connections to Office 365 Skype for Business customers through Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365.
Also anticipated for sometime this summer is a range of meetings devices based on Windows 10 that will integrate fully with Skype For Business. The most noteworthy of these devices are the Polycom boardroom speakerphones and the Microsoft Surface Hub — an 84-inch 4K display built for ink and touch, designed especially for corporate meetings.