Microsoft now offers a preview of its new Skype for Business tool, which replaces the previous Lync service.
The company revealed earlier this year that it was launching Skype for Business as a rebranded replacement for Lync, adding several features to facilitate integration with standard phone lines, as well as meetings with numerous participants. The features in question will become generally available later this year, but Microsoft has now launched some beta features to preview what Skype for Business has to offer enterprises.
"When Microsoft launched Skype for Business earlier this year, I described our plans to deliver new Skype for Business voice and meetings capabilities in Office 365, beginning with a technical preview this summer," Microsoft says in a blog post written by Zig Serafin, corporate vice president for the Skype for Business team. "These new capabilities will enhance the existing Skype for Business experience, and allow us to offer a complete, enterprise-grade communications solution at global scale as part of Office 365."
Three new beta features aim to enhance the experience: Skype Meeting Broadcast, PSTN Conferencing and Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling.
Skype Meeting Broadcast
This beta feature aims to allow for large meetings over the Internet, enabling organizers to broadcast a Skype for Business meeting that can accommodate up to a whopping 10,000 people. The feed can be viewed from a browser on nearly any device without needing a plugin, Microsoft notes. The preview also boasts integration with Yammer and Bing Pulse, thus allowing speakers to interact with their audience in real time. This beta feature is available to Office 365 users worldwide. Bing Pulse is described as a tool for real-time comunication during meetings that can handle polling, while Yammer is a collaboration and microblogging enterprise social networking service.
This new feature is currently available only to Office 365 customers in the U.S., allowing people to use a traditional telephone line to call into a Skype for Business meeting. At the same time, participants to the meeting can dial out to add more people to the meeting. This enables people to join an online meeting via Skype for Business even if they don't have access to an Internet connection.
Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling
Lastly, the new Cloud PBX feature allows users to make and take "standard" phone calls within Skype for Business, complete with the ability to hold, resume, forward and transfer their calls. Cloud PBX is currently limited as a preview only for Office 365 users in the U.S., but Microsoft promises to extend the availability to customers worldwide later this year. The company also plans to roll out a configuration option so global customers can use Cloud PBX with existing phone lines on-premises for inbound as well as outbound calling.
Later this year, Microsoft will also provide direct connections to Office 365 Skype for Business users through Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365. In the meantime, you can learn more about Skype Meeting Broadcast from the video below.